Do you think the world economies will continue to maintain social distancing, avoid hand shake, ban social gathering, and keep children away from school, among its many protocols now and into the distant future in observance of the novel corona-virus?
Will covid-19 and all its announced protocols be remembered soon in history? It appears too earlier for the world to conclude if this novel corona-virus pandemic would be remembered in history soon. Available research from previous pandemics will suggest the solution. Two flu pandemics in the 20th Century: the 1957 Asian flu and the 1968 Hong Kong flu which is reported to have killed about 2 million and 4 million people respectively are of importance to our analyses. According to worldometer, the global population as at October 31, 2011 stood at 7 billion estimated to grow to 8 billion by 2023. The global coronavirus cases as at today July 2, 2020 stands at 10, 847,708 with 6, 065, 708 recovery cases and 519, 888 recorded deaths.
Though the Spanish flu brushed the global world economies in three deadly waves all between the period of 1918 through to 1919, it is interesting how people thought about it and its effects to contributing to changing the world. This Spanish flu was able at the time to claim 50 million lives from planet earth. That was one out of three peoples in the world alive then.
Remember this was the pandemic of influenza that hit in three waves. The first in 1918, mild wave in the Northern hemisphere’s spring ebbed in the summer or late spring. Then came a more deadly second wave which erupted in the latter part of August and ebbed towards the end of that year, then came the third wave which also began in the early months of 1919.
It interesting to know that unlike in our time today where online cloud and tracking devices and apps are available for use in tracking countries and the global world cases; it worth knowing that the death toll which stood at 500 million people could have suffered some under-reporting at the time due to non-availability or lack of reliable diagnostic test. Inferring, the reported numbers could have been more.
Was the planet earth any different at that time? In comparing the year 1918 and year 2020 lay a lot of likenesses and essential differences. The Spanish flu cum the novel coronavirus has lessons for this present generation as we prepare for the future. A philosopher once said “fear tomorrow”. Am reiterating that if we know the owner of the universe who has His own operational manual, and surrender our total dependence on him to always direct our steps for a brighter tomorrow; we shall not fear tomorrow because our God liveth.
- The world’s population then was just about a quarter of the size of what it is today.
- The main killer of the people at the time of the Spanish flu was an infectious disease.
- Though the Spanish flu was a virus inflection, most considered and treated a bacterial infection. The world by 1918 wasn’t very well informed about viruses; as the first virus identified was at the end of the 19th
- The germ theory wasn’t advanced as the people at the time assumed microorganisms cause infectious diseases. As a result, most doctors at the time equated the Spanish flu to a bacterial disease and treatment was based on same knowledge theory. Considering the world then had no reliable diagnostic test, many other people called the Spanish flu many different things. As a result most dead people at the time were not counted contributing to under-reporting.
- Doctors have described the Spanish flu as the “greatest medical holocaust in history”. It was not just the fact it killed so many, it was that so many of its victims were young and healthy. Normally, a healthy immune system can deal reasonably well with flu, but this version struck so quickly that it overwhelmed the immune system, causing a massive over-reaction known as a cytokine storm, flooding the lungs with fluid which became the perfect reservoir for secondary infections.
- The planet earth as at 1918 had higher illiteracy rate compared to our world today. As a result, news about the pandemic which was mostly circulated by newspapers had the information distorted due to various communication barriers and challenges then and even in our time. The population news travelled very slowly. It had several reported versions of the same information communicated differently.
- The Spanish flu happened at a time when the world had just come out of a global war, seeing vital public resources diverted to military efforts.
- Many with underlying health conditions, many in slums and other poor urban areas, among populations with poor nutrition and sanitation suffered from the flu as the idea of a public health system was in its infancy – only the middle class or the rich could afford to visit a doctor.
- Some places succeeded to keep the flu at cove, by using basic techniques that are still being used 100 years on. Schools were closed, public gather banned, shut off access to the village from the main road were seen and wearing of masks was enforced.
- Travel wasn’t very advanced as at 1918 as people moved about by train and ship as the fastest available means. There were no commercial airplanes and private jets like we do in our time. Though Henry Ford was reported to have invented his Model T motor car, it was still at the preserve of the rich and upper class as were telephones too.
- Many of the people dying from Covid-19 are surrendering to a form of pneumonia, which takes grasp as the immune system is declining from combating the virus. This is something that it shares with Spanish flu – though it must be said that the death rate from Covid-19 is many times lower than that of Spanish flu. Older people and those with compromised immune systems – who make up the majority of those who have been killed by the disease so far – are more susceptible to infections that cause pneumonia.
- The coronavirus pandemic started from China but the Spanish flu didn’t commence in Spain as reported by history.com. As a historical accident, there were cases of the flu then in US, Britain, France and perhaps other European countries before Spain had it. And when Spain did, they were impartial in this war as its press wasn’t censored. According to the cdc.gov; the first case which broke out was in the spring of 1918 and its newspapers reported about it. Meanwhile other countries that recorded the case before Spain kept the flu out of the news. Those first recorded cases had King Alfonso XIII King of Spain also catch the flu making it so visible. As a result, the name kind of stuck to the Spanish flu.
Our human instinct makes it interesting today how people are happy to point fingers and quickly blame other countries and people to be carriers of this novel coronavirus. Most pandemics usually come with racial intolerance, fear and stigma. Perhaps, some of the reason with which most countries swept the news under the carpet.
Baptista is the C. E. O of FoReal HR Services and manages its social enterprise ProHumane Afrique International. She is a Human Resource professional with a broad generalist background and a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).
By Baptista Sarah Gebu