Myths about the pandemic “Spaniards”. Part 2

The pandemic was the main topic of the news

As shown above, during the wartime the medical authorities had strong reasons to keep silent about the real scale of the pandemic; to these reasons should be added attempts to maintain public order and avoid panic.

Therefore, there was no hype in the press, it was suppressed “from above” and the statistics were hidden from the population.

However, this does not mean that the authorities were inactive. At the height of the pandemic, special quarantines were organized in many large cities; in some places, additional forces, including police and firefighters, were involved to combat the epidemic.

The pandemic changed the course of World War I

It is unlikely that the flu had any impact on the results of World War I, as the warring parties suffered from the pandemic in roughly the same way.

There is no doubt, however, that the war of many millions of armies, on the contrary, contributed to the pandemic in the most significant way, creating ideal conditions for the virus to spread.

The pandemic was stopped by widespread immunization

Myths about the pandemic “Spaniards”. Part 2

Influenza vaccination, as we know it today, was not practiced in 1918, so it could not play any role in ending the pandemic.

Influenza episodes from the past provided some protection. For example, among soldiers who had served in the army for several years, the death rate was lower than that of recruits. In addition, actively mutating viruses tend to evolve into less lethal forms over time. A virus that kills a host too quickly is not capable of widespread and long-lasting spread – just as fire goes out on a smoky ashtray where there is simply nothing to burn.

The genetic structure of the DNA of the “Spaniard” virus has never been deciphered

In 2005, researchers reported successful sequencing of the 1918 Influenza virus. Two years later, experiments were carried out to infect monkeys, and animal models exhibited the same symptoms as those seen in humans during the pandemic.

According to published results, death was due to an inadequate immune system response to virus activity (the so-called “cytokine storm”).

Today, scientists believe that something similar happened to the immune system of an infected person, and it also contributed significantly to the high adult mortality rate in 1918.

The lessons of the 1918 pandemic are practically useless in 2020

Myths about the pandemic “Spaniards”. Part 2

Several severe influenza epidemics have been reported over the past decades. Experts believe that the next epidemic or pandemic does not raise the question “if” – you should ask “when”.

Today there are very few survivors of the 1918 pandemic, but we continue to learn from these historical lessons, whose range extends from the well-known benefits of hand washing and vaccination to the search for etiopathogenic antiviral drugs. Today we know much more about how to actually organize isolation and care for huge numbers of sick and dying people. Today we have antibiotics that were not available in 1918 and that can suppress secondary bacterial infections. Today we understand the importance of good nutrition, aseptic regime and general standard of living in terms of increasing the body’s resistance to viral infections. Perhaps this is the main weapon against influenza.

In the foreseeable future, influenza epidemics will remain an annual phenomenon in the rhythm of modern life. As a community of reason, we can only hope that we have learned the lessons of the great pandemic well enough to prevent the recurrence of such a global catastrophe.