Disease and epidemics have run through the veins of history for thousands of years. Globally, illness is a natural occurrence and can significantly impact a nation or even the world as a whole. Right now, we are experiencing a new pandemic that has taken over our lives by quarantining us for over two months. One day, our stories and experiences will be put into history books to tell future generations about the coronavirus pandemic that went from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. Although less deadly in some ways, many people and news agencies are comparing Coronavirus to the Spanish Flu. In terms of contagiousness during both time periods, the disease epidemics are quite similar. While the Spanish flu struck younger people worse, older people are more vulnerable to Coronavirus. The Spanish Flu pandemic infected about a third of the world’s population in 1918 and killed over 50 million people, 2 percent of the world population at the time. The frenzy around the Coronavirus began in 2019 but has amped up tremendously going into 2020. Due to the general knowledge and medical advancements we have today, Coronavirus is not a repeat of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
With the newfound knowledge we have, we are more prepared than past generations and can overcome this grueling pandemic. Knowledge, meaning not only about medical technologies, but also about our preparedness going into COVID-19. Of course, we can never be one hundred percent prepared for a virus, but we can have the supplies we need and tasks we need to carry out ready. The decision of quarantine is one example of how we are treating the coronavirus differently than the Spanish flu. Quarantining was a problematic measure in the late 1910s because people were relentless, and there were fewer ways of communication. People were living in very crowded conditions and struggling with extremely poor hygiene. They would travel in large groups to hospitals and leave zero to no space between people at the peak of the epidemic. Also, all people, old and young, were in the middle of a war. World War 1 soldiers carried the virus with them from place to place and all over the world. This helped the disease build and build until it affected nearly a third of the world population. People today have also learned the importance of safety and keeping others in check. Although not all listen and follow these protocols, the tables have turned since the 1910s, and the norm is to follow what is best for yours and everyone else’s safety.
The evolution of medical supplies and machines has become groundbreaking in protecting and saving more lives during a crisis like this. During the Spanish Flu pandemic, there was little protective equipment for health care workers. They had a higher chance of catching the flu from patients and spreading it to everyone they made contact with after leaving the hospital. As the suffrage movement grew during the 20th century, more and more women took on the role of nurses. Nursing was a growing job for smart, dedicated, and defiant women. These women not only fought for their right to vote but also stood up and tried to improve health conditions for poor and oppressed people. Nurses like these Suffragists were working in hospitals infected with the Spanish flu. Lots of these women were prone to catch the illness because they did not have the correct supplies to keep them healthy. Ventilators/respirators were also not a tool during the time of the Spanish Flu. These machines provide breathing support to people who are very ill with diseases like the Coronavirus. Overall, our medical advancements and progress in medical technology has made us more prepared for a scary time like now.
Although the medical reality is not the same from then to now, the fear people experience and see around them during pandemics never change. The Spanish Flu was much more deadly at the time, yet today we have taken the same (and more) precautions as they did. In 1918, schools, stores, and all other gathering places were closed. And now in 2020, the same places are being closed and even more because of the fear of the illness spreading. If anything, fear and panic have increased because of social media and more accessible ways of communication. News travels faster than a rocket into space and can impact as much as a person to a city. Fake news also creates rumors and speculation that brings more anxiousness to the surface.
Overall, the knowledge, medical advancements, and preparedness we have for an epidemic like the Coronavirus have so far saved us from a repeat of the Spanish Flu. Although the Coronavirus is continually impacting people worldwide, we have learned from history. By this point, the Spanish Flu had infected about a fourth of the world population and had taken many more lives than have been lost today. However, the necessity of staying inside and being healthy is more important than ever to continue to pursue.