Thursday, April 30, 2020
Will We Repeat the Mistakes of 1918?
One of the costliest lessons to emerge from the Spanish Flu of 1918 is that pandemics often come in waves over a span of 12 to 18 months and the second wave tends to be the deadliest.
It's claimed that, after the first wave during the spring of 1918, the guard was dropped. People went about their lives, business as usual, lots of mingling. That, we're told was all the virus needed to come roaring back with a murderous vengeance in the fall of that year.
Half a billion people, one out of three at that time, became infected. Some 50 million died.
The lesson of the Spanish Flu seems to be 'don't let down your guard.' It's not a 'one and done' contagion. You have to anticipate a second, even a third wave and how we act during the hiatus can influence the severity of the subsequent wave.
Now we're poised to put those warnings to the test. We're not even through the first wave and already some governments want a return to business as usual. They argue that we must breathe life back into the economy lest it be permanently damaged. There is a legitimate argument to be made for their position, risky as that may be.
As lockdowns are lifted we'll be treated to the influence of creeping normalcy, social amnesia. Today even the direst warnings are flushed down the memory hole, forgotten, within a matter of days. The more threatening or inconvenient, the faster we manage to purge them from our consciousness. We've become quite adept at this coping mechanism in the age of climate breakdown. It's a technique equally suited to a pandemic.
It seems we're in for that dreaded second wave this fall. There will probably be no vaccine by then although there are encouraging reports of various anti-virals that may reduce Covid-19's lethality. Let's hope so.