The Last Time We Saw A Pandemic

To try and help my readers that are stuck at home I offer a small history class….(eye rolls allowed)……

Let’s begin with the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918…..

The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic

We hear about the world and the the response….just how badly some countries have done…especially the US…..but it would not be the first time…..

But the last time we faced a horrible pandemic was in the waning days of World War One and after…it was called the Spanish Flu…..and President Woodrow Wilson was not ready to handle this pandemic (does it sound vaguely familiar?)

The last time the United States faced a worldwide pandemic – the “Spanish flu” of 1918 and 1919 — cities rolled up the sidewalks, closed theaters, and shuttered saloons. Firemen, policemen, nurses and panicked citizens covered their faces with gauze masks.

The virulent influenza emerged in the last year of World War I, incubated in American army camps and spread overseas on troop ships. By the time the influenza finally burned itself out, over 45,000 Americans in uniform and some 600,000 American civilians were dead of the disease. It’s estimated that the Spanish flu killed 50 million worldwide.

When the crisis hit, the country was led by a president viewed by many as among the most capable of American leaders, Woodrow Wilson. A favorite of progressives, Wilson has been hailed for expanding the federal government and celebrated for his commitment to international institutions. He has regularly been in historians’ polls of the top 10 presidents, an assessment that has only slipped in recent years as Wilson’s unreconstructed racism has been publicized. Still, one would expect a skilled advocate of federal authority to have used every power of his office to confront a scourge that was killing Americans by the hundreds of thousands. Surely his response would be a model of presidential leadership.

“Frankly, I don’t think Wilson gave much attention to the flu,” John M. Cooper, emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells RealClearInvestigations. “From going through his papers, there just isn’t much there,” says Cooper, the dean of Wilson scholars.

“President Woodrow Wilson had been extraordinarily close-mouthed about the epidemic from the first,” writes Sandra Opdycke in “The Flu Epidemic of 1918: America’s Experience in the Global Health Crisis.” Historians “have been unable to find a single occasion on which he mentioned it in public.”

The Spanish Flu of 1918 should have been used as a wake up call………

The “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, which caused ≈50 million deaths worldwide, remains an ominous warning to public health. Many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity remain unanswered. The public health implications of the pandemic therefore remain in doubt even as we now grapple with the feared emergence of a pandemic caused by H5N1 or other virus. However, new information about the 1918 virus is emerging, for example, sequencing of the entire genome from archival autopsy tissues. But, the viral genome alone is unlikely to provide answers to some critical questions. Understanding the 1918 pandemic and its implications for future pandemics requires careful experimentation and in-depth historical analysis.

Above was written in 2006…..and now I ask…just what did we learn?

Watch This Blog!

Be Calm…..Avoid Crowds…..Wash Hands Often….Stay Prepared

Class Dismissed!

I read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

6 thoughts on “The Last Time We Saw A Pandemic

  1. As we know only too well, society and its leaders disregard history in the main, and learn nothing from past mistakes. You could well post something like this again in the future, when they will once again have learned nothing from this current pandemic.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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