Coronavirus: SpanishFlu1919 To COVID2019 – Nothing Changes

(Photograph: Quarantine camp Adelaide Jubilee Park, South Australia Archives.)
By Rakesh Ahuja
The Spanish Flu pandemic hit the globe in 1919, resulting in over 50 million deaths. Eerily, just 100 years later, we have the CoronaVirus pandemic.
Medical advice for preventing coronavirus is omnipresent in these times of barely contained panic. However, the interesting point is that the Do’s and Don’ts advised to the populace in 1919 are almost the same, word by word, as what is being advised now.
In effect, despite medical advances, there is no change in medical advice.
Take the Australian experience. Some 13000 died (in a population of less than 5mn). The Sydney Morning Herald, on 28 January 1919, reported the advice of the Department of Public Health to Australians:
  1. Wear a gauze respirator while riding on trams, trains, or other vehicles; upon steamers; when occupying offices, rooms, or other enclosed spaces which are also occupied by any other persons; in any crowded street, or if walking or standing in conversation with other persons.
  2. In open air, there is safety at a distance of six feet or over from the mouth of any person;
  3. The following simple rules should be observed:
Keep away from the cougher, spitter, or sneezer who does not use a mask or handkerchief.
Keep out of crowds.
  • Keep in the fresh air and sunlight as much as possible.
  • Keep out of doors, if possible, or in a well-ventilated room.
    Be temperate in eating, and avoid alcohol.
  • Wash your hands and face immediately upon reaching your home.
  • Change your clothes before mingling with the rest of the family.
  • Exercise, short of fatigue, should be taken regularly.
  • Keep the mouth and teeth clean.

4. If the epidemic should break through quarantine:

Go to bed in a room to yourself directly you feel symptoms like pain in the head or limbs, or a cold, and take light diet.
The sick person should cough, sneeze, or expectorate into gauze or a piece of clean rag, which should be burnt at once after use.
Persons handling the gauze or rag should wash their hands after each attention.
Patient’s room should be well ventilated, and care should be taken that draughts do not strike him.
Visitors should be kept from the sick room as far as possible. Only one member of the family should attend on the patient, and the attendant should wear a mask.
It would be difficult to identify any element of current advice in the time of CoronaVirus, which is not reflected above.
Well, if humanity survived what was surely a seeming death blow in the wake of WWI, then the threat of CoronaVirus too shall pass. We are now in an interconnected, interdependent world, which allows the best scientific brains to work together to overcome the challenge of CoronaVirus 2020.