What can we learn from the Spanish flu that took tens of millions of lives a century ago?

The outbreak of the Corona virus, which began in late 2019, has spread worldwide and has killed nearly 13,000 people so far. But this is not the first time that a global epidemic has taken live in such a large scale.

Almost a hundred years ago, the world was handling the aftermath of the First World War that killed 200 million people, and suddenly people had to contend with something even more deadly. It was the flu epidemic

This global outbreak is known as Spanish flu. It sprang from the army’s narrow and crowded camps on the western frontiers. Poor sanitation along the French border developed, especially in the trenches, and it continued to spread.

The war ended in November 1918, but the soldiers, carrying the virus with them, returned to their homes, where the casualties were even greater. It is estimated that 5 million to 100 million people died from the outbreak.

At a time when news of the outbreak of the new Corona virus spreading across the world has been shaken by news of the outbreak of the new Corona virus or COVID-19, BBC Future carried out 100 years of Spanish flu in 2018. Look at the special report that looked at what we learned from the most deadly diseases in recent history.

Pneumonia general killer
Cod-19 fatalities are much less than the Spanish flu. Elders or people whose immune system was weakened by a disease are still among those killed by the virus, and they were quite susceptible to infections that cause pneumonia.

What is a global epidemic?
At the time the Spanish flu was invaded, air travel was in the early stages. But there were also some places on the planet that were safe from its terrible effects. Its spread in the world was very slow. It spreads by rail and ships, not by airplanes. It took months and many years to reach many places.

Some areas succeeded in preventing the flu, and for this they adopted some basic methods that are still used 100 years later. A population in Bristol Bay, Alaska, USA, survived the flu. They closed schools, banned public gatherings and banned entry from the main highway into the village.

This method is still used today in China’s Hubei province and northern Italy to prevent the spread of the Corona virus.

Each virus is targeted by different populations
Doctors have described Spanish flu as “the biggest Holocaust in history.” Not only did it kill a large number of people, but many of its victims were young and healthy people.

Normally a healthy immune system competes with the flu in a proper way, but this type of flu dominates the immune system and causes a ‘cytokine storm’ reaction inside the body. This causes water to flow to the lungs, which becomes the site of other infections.

Interestingly, older people were not so affected by it, perhaps because they survived a similar flu that spread to the human population in the 1830s.

Individuals and those already infected with the new corona virus are at higher risk. Although the casualties are still small, most of those who die are over 80 years old.

And the public health initiatives that are taking place today to prevent the spread of the Corona virus are the ones that have had the most impact on preventing the Spanish flu.

Public health is the best defense
The Spanish flu spread to a world that was dealing with World War I and where all the necessary public resources were being spent on military capabilities.

In many areas the public health system was still in its early stages and only the wealthy or the middle class could afford to go to the doctor.

The flu killed many people in slums and in poorly populated areas of the city, where there was a lack of hunger in the population, cleanliness was poor and people’s health was poor.

The flu played a vital role in creating a health system around the world as scientists and governments realized that global outbreaks could spread much faster than in the past.

Individual treatment for each patient will not be sufficient in this situation. In order to cope with the global outbreak, the government in cities must mobilize its resources on a combat basis; those who have the symptoms of illness should be kept in quarantine; Restrict people’s movement so that the disease can go away automatically.

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