'Spanish flu' 1918 vs Covid-19 - Seeker's Thoughts

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'Spanish flu' 1918 vs Covid-19


The 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic, sometimes referred to as the “Spanish flu,” killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 people in the United States. Similarly COVID 19 was being related to the Spanish flu.

Why is Spanish flu was a ‘Pandemic’ like Coronavirus ?

Spanish flue was considered deadly at time of 1918 because unlike other viruses, it attacked on the adults which were aged between 15 years to 34 years.

While, Coronavirus is more hazardous for the people who are old, children and adults who have weaker immunity system. 80 percent cases of corona are not even fatal or dangerous 
for human life. However, it is highly infectious as it spreads through air.

Therefore, Spanish flu is no where like coronavirus in symptoms yet, it brought the similar chaos in the world- economically and costed human lives. Not only that it taught a lesson to the world how to study more about viruses and prepare for the future, yet again the world is caught with Coronavirus.

Is Coronavirus the second Pandemic after ‘Spanish Flu’?

Post 1918, there were 3 more pandemic which were faced by the world in 1957 (Which caused 1 million death) , 1968( also caused 1 million death across the globe) and 2009 (due to the spread of H1N1 virus).

However, the consequences were lesser on the world, and they were controlled in time. While coronavirus infected 20 million people upto 1st August 2020.

Spanish Flu: The worst Pandemic in History

Spanish flu virus replicated quickly and causes severe disease in the lung tissues of mice. In 1918, the virus caused severe disease in the lungs of people infected, as well.


The Spanish flu virus able to replicate quickly and spread infection at faster pace.

 For example, four days after infection, the amount of 1918 virus found in the lung tissue of infected mice was 39,000 times higher than that produced by one of the comparison recombinant flu viruses.
The left picture shows replication of a human seasonal flu virus called Tx/91 in cell culture. The picture on the right shows how when the polymerase (PB1) gene of this same virus is exchanged with that of the 1918 virus, the resulting virus’ ability to replicate (i.e., make copies of itself) is greatly enhanced. Photo credit: Terrence Tumpey, CDC.
The left picture shows replication of a human seasonal flu virus called Tx/91 in cell culture. The picture on the right shows how when the polymerase (PB1) gene of this same virus is exchanged with that of the 1918 virus, the resulting virus’ ability to replicate (i.e., make copies of itself) is greatly enhanced.
(Photo credit: Terrence Tumpey, CDC.)

There were various experiments for understanding 1918 virus and its ability to infect other organs except lungs.  If the virus could spread to brain, heart or liver.

However, the results were negative about it. The virus only infected lungs but other organs of the body remained safe.

On of the well-documented effect of the 1918 virus was rapid and severe lung damage. It filled fluid in lungs and caused severe pneumonia and lung tissue inflammation.  


 Understanding the 1918 Virus More

The 1918 influenza pandemic was one of the most severe pandemic in recent history until corona.

The cause was an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin.

There is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. 

In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus.

The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. The United states remains the worst victim of Covid-10 Virus as well.


Pandemic Spread so much- Why?

Why does pandemic spread so much, and what was the situation during 1918?
The 1918 virus could replicate at immense speed but what was the reason for spreading it more?

If people can recall, during 1918 the world was engaged in the world war 1. There was a lot of mobilisation and movement and people stayed in closer contact. Any flu infects more people when there is limited space. The world needs to understand these concept while planning for infrastructure and cities. The population needs to be in the harmony with nature.

Earlier even health services were lesser, and the research was limited. There were more superstitions and biased opinion against doctors. Medical technology, and understanding of genes almost was non existent.  People did not even understand virus at that period.

There were not many vaccinations available, and antibiotics were not developed. Therefore, it could be concluded that there was no cure for the virus available during 1918.
At that period of time medical instruments were not available, as now at some places the instruments can not be supplied yet. There was not even a proper co ordination between the cities and nations.


What has been the reason for Covid 19 spread?

Today, considerable advancements have been made in the areas of health technology, disease surveillance, medical care, medicines and drugs, vaccines and pandemic planning. 

Flu vaccines are now produced and updated yearly, and yearly vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older

Antiviral drugs now exist that treat flu illness, and in the event of virus exposure, can be used for prophylaxis (prevention), as well. Importantly, many different antibiotics are now available that can be used to treat secondary bacterial infections.
According to the WHOTrusted Source, a pandemic is defined as the “worldwide spread of a new disease.”
Humans and animals develop natural immunity in order to survive when a virus is known to them. However, a sudden spread of a virus can cause Pandemic situation.
The new virus when attacks the body, the body has no history of the virus therefore, it does not have the anti bodies to kill the virus. This can be very fatal to species.
How many times Pandemics have impacted the humans?
Earlier, before 19th century the world did not have much information sharing and knowledge about diseases, however, since 1918, there have been notable situations of the pandemic. These are the ones who had sever impacts on human population---

1918 flu pandemic (H1N1 virus): 1918–1920

The 1918 flu has always been in the list of pandemics because it has impacted 50- 100 million people around the globe.
The most probable known cause for the Spanish flue was H1N1 Virus, and it was a zoonotic disease which spread from birds to humans. Though mortality rate impacted on entire generation, and even adults were the victim of this disease.
The reason for spread can very from today’s world as that time the hospitals were lesser available and even treatment
Overcrowding in treatment areas, poor sanitation practices, and nutritional deficiencies are thought to have contributed to the high death rate.

1968 flu pandemic (H3N2 virus): 1968–1969


During 1968, there was a pandemic situation due to Honk Kong Flu, which killed 1 -4 million people around the world.
It started from China before it spread to Hong Kong.
The pandemic was caused by H3N2 Virus.
This mostly affected to older people.

SARS-CoV: 2002–2003

In 2002, there was SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Coronavirus, which started from China.
It was a form of Viral Pneumonia that infected 8000 people and took lives of 770 people world wide.  The transmission source remained unknown, however, the outbreak effected first the people in the food industry such as farmers, market vendors and Chefs.

Swine Flu (H1N1pdm09 virus): 2009

The 2009 Swine Flu outbreak was the next influenza pandemic that caused the deaths of somewhere between 151,700 and 575,400Trusted Source people around the world.
It was caused by H1N1 and originated in pigs but spread among humans. The virus binds deep in lungs and triggered Pneumonia.

MERS-CoV: 2012–2013

The 2012 MERS coronavirus caused a disease characterized by severe respiratory illness that had a 34 percent mortality and took the lives of 858 people, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula. The virus started from Arabian Peninsula.
The MERS outbreak had a much higher mortality rate than the previous coronavirus outbreak.

Ebola: 2014–2016


Ebola virus disease (EVD), is a viral hemorrhagic fever, is a severe often fatal illness in a human. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spread in the human population through human-to-human transmission. 

Fruit bats are the natural host of this virus, and it spreads through contact with body fluids of infected persons such as blood, urine, and salvia. It also spreads through sexual transmission. It is a zoonotic disease. 


It was first identified in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a village near the Ebola River, from which it takes its name.

In 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus first discovered in 1976. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It also spread in countries, starting in Guinea then moving across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Symptoms: High fever, bleeding, and central nervous system damage are the symptoms. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. However, in past outbreaks case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90%

COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2): 2019–ongoing

In December 2019, China informed the World Health Organization about the cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause. Chinese public health officials began carrying out environmental assessments at the wholesale market and trying to identify the microbe causing the outbreak.
Coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s, but the origin of this virus is still unknown. They get their name from their crown-like shape. Sometimes, but not often coronavirus can infect both animals and humans.



Most coronaviruse spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do, through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.



Almost everyone gets coronavirus infections at least once in their life, most likely as a young child. In the United States, coronavirus is more common in the fall and winter, but anyone can come down with a coronavirus infection at any time.


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