Corona-pandemic: Lessons from the Spanish flu?
In times of Corona-pandemic is often reminiscent of the “Spanish flu”, which should have required a little over 100 years worldwide, up to 50 million deaths. Two historians of the University of Basel to clarify in a recent communication on some of the differences and Similarities between the two pandemics.
At the end of the First world war, the Spanish flu raged in all Parts of the earth, and called according to estimates, up to 50 million people. Currently, the Coronavirus Sars-CoV-2, and the new pathogen, the disease brought COVID-19 around the Globe is spreading. There is something we can learn in the Corona-the crisis of the Spanish flu?
In the Morning, healthy afternoon dead
It was the largest pandemic of the modern era: The deadly of the century “flu” broke out in July 1918 in the final stages of the First world war and the world was looking for a year long home.
As in the communication from the University of Basel explains, was initially assumed to be a bacterium as the cause, which is transmitted through contact with the (smaller) viruses, the handlers, under the then Micro still were not visible, were only identified later.
As a direct causative agent, the influenza virus H1N1 type A is today, its origins and spread are still unclear.
According to Séveric Yersin, a historian and a PhD candidate at the University of Basel, had made the rapid course of the disease special impression.
“People were able to go in the Morning to be healthy to work and by early afternoon they were dead,” said the scientist.
Especially people between 20 and 40 years of age are affected
Also frightening was that the skin of the victim to discolored due to a reaction of the immune system of bluish. However, not all of the Infected were from the devastating flu affected equally.
Why is it met with the Victims, mainly people between 20 and 40 years, it has not been clarified Yersin, according to today. Apparently, their weakened defenses played a role.
It was necessary to ascertain in any case, a large degree of social inequality, which accompanied the deadly disease: Not all Swiss cantons, the victims were to pay the same, and on neighborhoods with a large tenant share had a higher mortality.
Excitation with as much alcohol to kill
The first cases of the Spanish flu occurred in the summer of 1918 in the army, before the Numbers increased rapidly all over the world. “The government and the health authorities were ill-prepared for the pandemic,” explains Prof. Dr. Patrick Kury, Co-head of the city.History.Basel.
The deadly threat was underestimated, it was simply too little. In July 1918, the Federal Council instructed the cantons, to contain the disease, what followed this, however, is very uneven.
Also in the medical Profession, there were very different assessments. Even were the strangest advice for methods of healing, including those of the pathogen with as much alcohol to kill.
Already at that time was: stay at home!
The recommendations of the authorities: meetings should be avoided as well as patients in a hospital bed held. Large parts of the population considered such measures in favour of peace and order however for a Chicane. Churches, schools, theatre and cinema remained closed, train and tram limited.
“Who wants to protect themselves from infection, to stay home,” advised the Basel medical Department. Notspitäler were set up, and the whole country was called upon to donate blankets and mattresses, to make cars available to Doctors, and to provide voluntary help.
“Under enormous pressure, the nursing staff in hospitals and Notspitälern and home visit,” says Kury. Because most of the flu – mostly female – family members and nurses were sick to care what she put in mortal danger.
The largest number of victims of that flu to the civilian population was as well.
Even today, not all people can cure a flu in bed
In the collective memory, especially the dead soldiers remained, and were later celebrated as “heroes of the Fatherland” – only about eight percent of the deaths came, according to Kury victims from the army.
Most of the medical expenses and wage losses were felt by the Affected people themselves and their relatives.
“Public health had not yet the importance of today,” explains Yersin. So the “Spanish flu have improved” the health insurance funds in Switzerland for many much; these were now supported by the Federal government stronger.
But then, as now, believed by the historian, could not afford all the people to cure a flu for a longer time in bed and claim the help.
The time not with the current situation, comparable to
The conditions prevailing during the pandemic were very different and not to compare for Kury with the current situation.
“Today, medical Knowledge, cross-border cooperation and coordinating measures to move to a completely different level.”
But the flu of 1918/19, showing how important it is to deal with a pandemic, with the necessary consequence.
“It should not surprise us, if the corona of a crisis in political, economic and social consequences, not draws that are yet-to-be-known,” said Yersin. (ad)