Experts find a way to solve a health crisis by comparing them to the epidemics in early history. And now that we are suffering from the novel coronavirus, there have been prompt suggestions to compare COVID-19 outbreak to Spanish Flu of 1918 Spanish flu. The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most brutal and severe wave of the health crisis in history. The estimated deaths due to Spanish flu were at least 50 million people worldwide. But is that vicious flu comparable to the coronavirus?
Even though both of the diseases are respiratory infections and have the same symptoms, they belong to different families of viruses. Also while the coronavirus is more threatening to the elderly and adults with pre-existing conditions, the Spanish Flu is deadly for young adults. There is definitely no comparison between the novel coronavirus and the Spanish Flu, certainly because the conditions during both of the pandemics are completely different. Today we have all the advanced tools and technology to combat this virus tactfully. During the period of 1918 when the Spanish flu was taking the lives of people amid the war, it was not possible to properly handle such disease due to the extreme lack of scientific knowledge. The RNA of coronavirus was decrypted within just a few days after its infliction. But people did not know the influenza pathogen at the time of the Spanish flu so, without this information, it was not possible for them to develop a vaccine or recognize the infection. There was no World Health Organization to coordinate the prevention and detection of an outbreak on a global scale. Attempts were extremely limited to monitor and document the spread of new diseases because all of the focus was on war censorship regimes.
So there is no doubt that both of the pandemics arrived in different situations and had vast differences. Today we have much more improved and stable monitoring systems, medicines, scientific knowledge, and efficient healthcare systems than it was 10 decades ago.
It’s natural to compare COVID-19 outbreak to Spanish Flu, it could be beneficial for doing so if the correlation is done with care and nuance. The COVID-19 pandemic will only get as bad as the Spanish flu of 1918 if we refuse to take appropriate steps such as social distancing, vigorous surveillance and quarantining, and let it get that bad.