More than 100 years ago, the world was hit with the Spanish flu, a pandemic described by experts as the deadliest in human history – at least until now. The 1918 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, or 200 million in today’s global population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 1918 flu outbreak began in the spring with the transmission of the novel H1N1 virus from birds to humans and lasted about two years. According to the CDC, an estimated one-third of the world’s population at the time, or 500 million people, were infected.
Covid-19 is officially the deadliest outbreak in recent U.S. history, surpassing the estimated deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Unlike the coronavirus, Spanish flu often ended fatally, especially for young people – people under the age of five or between 20 and 40 were particularly likely to be affected.
Reported U.S. deaths from covid exceeded 675,000 on Monday, rising to an average of more than 1,900 deaths per day, Johns Hopkins data show.
Surpassing the 1918 death toll is a grim milestone, but experts suggest there are important differences between the two pandemics that need to be considered given modern access to better medical treatments and vaccinations.
When comparing the pandemics, Howard Markel, professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, tells ABC News, it’s important to remember that many more people live in the U.S. today than in 1918, when the population was about 105 million, according to census data, compared with 328 million people in 2019.
Although the two pandemics were initially comparable, the introduction of the coronavirus vaccine made the differences between the two clear, Nichols says.
“People desperately needed treatment in 1918. People desperately needed a vaccine,” says Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University. “We have effective vaccines now. And what strikes me in comparison is the same number, with the difference being that we have a really effective treatment, which is what they wanted most in 1918/1919.”
“The same interventions – the so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions that were done in 1918 – were the same as last year: lockdowns, social distancing, hygiene masks, restrictions on where people could gather,” Nichols says.
- source: heute.at/picture:pixabay.com
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