Echoes of the Past

A century ago, the world was seized by a pandemic known as the Spanish Flu or the 1918 flu pandemic.

Global infectious disease events have occurred throughout history, with one of the earliest recorded around 1200 B.C. Pandemics of the past were limited to a city, a region, or an empire because of limited travel opportunities. Through the millennia, billions of people have died of infectious diseases such as smallpox, plague, and influenza. Today, we are amid another pandemic—coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, and its associated illness COVID-19.

What are a few of the significant differences in the world between 1918 and 2020? About six billion people, for one. A global economy and a virtual world without borders for another. In a world where everything travels faster, its no surprise that coronavirus moved just as fast. It is estimated that the 1918 flu pandemic infected almost one-third of the world’s population, according to the History Channel.

A St. Louis, MO, doctor named Max C. Starkloff first realized that “social distancing” was the secret to keeping infection rates low. Starkloff “published an article on mitigating pneumonia, advising people to avoid the sick, crowds, alcohol, and fatigue, and to seek fresh air,” according to Wikipedia. While Dr. Starkloff’s somewhat draconian efforts paid off in the fall of 1918, by the winter of that year, a resurgence of influenza cases proved that lifting restrictions too soon can have deadly consequences.

Today we need to follow Dr. Starkloff’s advice to maintain our social restrictions as much as the world needed to back in 1918. Relaxing our social distancing restrictions too soon can result in a resurgence of an illness to which most of us have no natural defenses. And while many of us will survive this novel virus strain, some of us will not. Are you willing to take that chance?

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