The Two Worst Hit Pandemics: COVID-19 and The Spanish Flu


COVID-19  pandemic is most likely the deadliest outbreak in recent American history, exceeding the estimated deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic, says an article published in News medical life sciences.

About the Spanish flu

In 1918, the Spanish Influenza  pandemic was the first of three flu pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza. H1N1 was also responsible for the Russian flu of 1977.

The 1918 influenza pandemic spread throughout the world between 1918 and 1920 infected an estimated 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population. The death toll reached an estimated 50 million across the globe. In the U.S., around 675,000 people were estimated to have died from the Spanish flu.

The 1918 flu came in three waves:

  • the spring of 1918 
  • the fall of 1918
  • the winter and spring of 1919.

During that time, there were no vaccines or treatments developed against the H1N1 virus.

Many reasons have been proposed for H1N1’s high mortality at the time, including a six-year climate anomaly affecting disease vector migration and possibly increasing the likelihood of being spread through water bodies.

A combination of malnutrition, overcrowding in medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene, exacerbated by the war, led to the death of most of the victims.

The COVID-19 Outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan City, China. From there, it has spread to 192 countries and territories. SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in patients who worked at a wet market. The virus’s  origins are still unclear.

The COVID pandemic continues to spread as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge, making it harder to contain and control. The current Delta variant threatens many countries with skyrocketing cases, causing healthcare systems to become overwhelmed or on the verge of collapse in some countries.

Comparison between The Spanish flu and COVID-19 pandemic

Health experts  reiterate to consider population when tackling outbreaks. At present, around 330 million people reside in the U.S. During 1918, the Spanish flu killed about 1 in every 150 U.S. residents, while the COVID-19 pandemic killed 1 in 500 residents.

On the global scale, the 1918 Spanish flu killed an estimated 25 to 50 million globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed 4.7 million people so far.

The 1918 Spanish flu mainly affected adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who were healthy. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic is more severe in older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

During the Spanish flu pandemic, there were no vaccines or treatments. Today, effective vaccination efforts are well underway, with drug repurposing helping to alleviate symptoms and aid recovery.

The 1918 H1N1 flu virus infected so many people that they developed immunity to it.  H1N1 was eventually weakened by mutation, and although the disease still exists today, immunity has been acquired through infection and vaccination.

It is now possible to get a safe and effective vaccine to protect from SARS-CoV-2 in the same way flu shots have long been available to protect from H1N1 and other strains of influenza.

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Source: News medical life sciences


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