Throughout history, pandemics have made a recurring appearance. From the Spanish Flu, to the Asian Flu and of course let’s not forget the infamous Black Death. Here’s a look at some of these pandemics and how they eventually came to an end.
The Spanish Flu began in 1918, with the second wave of the flu causing death within hours or days for its victims (many of whom were healthy and young). It did not originate in Spain, but because Spain was the only country reporting this flu in the news (Spain was a neutral country in World War 1 with free media) many thought that Spain was responsible for this outbreak. Many scientists are still unsure as to where this flu originated from, but some theories point to France, Britain or the United States where cases were first reported. It is thought that infected soldiers spread the disease to other countries within months and this pandemic has an estimated death toll of 100 million worldwide (this is thought to be one of the worst pandemics in history). Officials in many communities imposed quarantines, shut down public places, advised citizens to wear masks and avoid shaking hands. With a hope of controlling this disease, medical professionals advised patients to take 30g of aspirin daily, but unfortunately such a dose is toxic and many deaths resulted from aspirin poisoning. By the summer of 1919 the flu pandemic came to an end with those who were infected having either died or developed immunity. There was no vaccination that was developed or suitable drug treatment, but it is thought that the world reached a suitable level of immunity and using quarantine would have reduced the spread of this disease.
With a hope of controlling this disease, medical professionals advised patients to take 30g of aspirin daily, but unfortunately such a dose is toxic and many deaths resulted from aspirin poisoning
The Asian Flu of 1957 originated in China from a mutation in wild ducks and lasted until 1958. A vaccine against the virus was introduced in 1957 which slowed the pandemic down. The second wave of this flu went on to become part of the regular wave of seasonal flu. Furthermore, the Hong-Kong Flu, 1968, originated in China and lasted until 1970. It was less severe than the 1918 and 1957 flu pandemics, as it was caused by an influenza virus that was only slightly different from the previous influenza strains. It seems that individuals exposed to the 1957 virus had some immune protection to the 1968 pandemic. However, the level of severity of this virus did vary between countries. For example, it appeared to be less severe in Japan but more widespread and deadly in the United States. A vaccine was later developed against this virus.
The first pandemic of the Black Death took place in 1346-1350 and made a reappearance in 1665-66. This disease is thought to have originated in Asia and spread across Europe through the trade routes by flea-infected rats (as well as individuals travelling with the infection). This disease is notorious for its gruesome symptoms: large swellings that reached the size of an egg known as buboes (hence its name The Bubonic Plague) common in the armpits and neck that ooze blood and pus. Many victims would die shortly after contracting this disease. The most popular theory on how this disease ended is through using quarantine and social distancing. Sailors that arrived were kept isolated until it was clear that they had no symptoms. Better personal hygiene is thought to have begun during this pandemic which helped to reduce the rates of infection. A common myth is that the Black Death of 1665-66 was wiped out by the Great Fire of London in 1666, but the number of deaths from this disease had already started declining before the Fire, so many scientist don’t believe that this is how it ended. Modern sanitation and good public health practices have greatly minimized the impact of this disease in the present day.
A common myth is that the Black Death of 1665-66 was wiped out by the Great Fire of London in 1666
So many of these pandemics appeared to be controlled through imposing quarantine, encouraging good sanitation and some saw the development of vaccines. These continue to be key strategies in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. It is true the world has seen some tough pandemics in the past, but luckily these eventually came to an end.
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