COVID-19 : Beware ! The Spanish Flu history could repeat itself

Scientists across the globe have warned that the COVID-19  could turnout to be a replay of the 1918 Spanish Flu if normal life resumes on a rather fast pace.

Earlier on, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom, had warned that the ” virus will be with us for a long time”. 

It is a call for caution following the  restrictions recently eased in many countries across the globe. About three months back, governments imposed sweeping restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Schools, businesses, churches, airports and other public places were shut down. People remained indoors, and that slowed down the spread of the virus.

As restrictions are gradually lifted, life seems to have returned to normal for many. But historians say the Coronavirus pandemic may bounce back, like the 1918 Spanish Flu whose second and third waves returned with devastating human losses.

What was the Spanish Flu ?

The Spanish flu was an avian-flu virus that started shortly after the World War l, in October 1918, in Europe. It spread to America , Asia and later Africa, killing over 50 million people, about 2/5 of the world’s population at the time.

Symptoms of the Spanish Flu were cough, fever, respiratory distress, pneumonia and quick death .

There were no effective drugs or vaccines to fight the disease, so it lingered on, and only disappeared  in late 1919 when many had either died or become immuned to the virus .

The 102 year-old-pandemic was first reported by Spanish journalists, for many months , hence the name Spanish Flu.

How Similar Is COVID-19  to the  Spanish flu ?

The 1918/19 Spanish flu, like COVID-19, was a highly infected respiratory disease that swept through countries within a very short time. It’s transmission was also favored by the movement of people, especially soldiers from one country to another. Like the deadly COVID-19, no known vaccine or effective drug could fight the disease.

In order to contain its spread, public health restrictions were imposed in the affected countries. Schools, churches and businesses were shut down and people were required to stay indoors . Movements were limited, wearing face masks , and regular hand washing became mandatory. Make shift hospitals were also set up to care for patients.

What lessons do we have to learn ?

COVID-19 goes down as a pandemic that has changed history. Scientists say it could resurface like the Spanish Flu. Hence, easing  restrictions  should be cautious. Several persons in South Korea, China and other countries  who had tested positive for the virus, reportedly got reinfected.

When restrictions were lifted shortly after the first wave of the Spanish Flu, life soon went back to normal, and the second wave struck the world with a far more devastating human loss. That was followed by a third wave in January 1918, which killed 12000 persons in Australia alone.

Based on the similarities between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19, health experts have warned against letting off guard.

Easing restrictions does not mean the pandemic is over yet. The Coronavirus will certainly take some time to disappear.

However, it is not yet certain that the dreaded COVID-19 will follow the same trajectory as the Spanish Flu, but experts say it is better to be safe than sorry.


Kathy Neba Sina 

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