Could the coronavirus really take off and kill as many people as the Spanish flu in 1919?

Question
nomi king 6 months 1 Answer 100 views

Answer ( 1 )

  1. Originally Answered: Could the coronavirus take as many lives as the ‘Spanish flu’ virus took?
    One century ago, the Spanish flu affected 500 million people out of a population of 1.8 billion people, killing betwween 17 and 55 millions of people. According to the WHO mortality rate was similar to the current estimated mortality rate for Covid-19, 2–3% of those who were infected. Now, currently the world population is around 7 billion. If the same identical kind of epidemics occurred, just due to the fact that we are almost 4 times as many, we could theoretically expect 2 billions of cases and between 66 and 215 million deaths. Basically, this epidemics may have a much highier death toll than the Spanish flu, even if it had the same “magnitude” just due to the fact that the world is far more crowded nowadays. Besides, the Covid-19 epidemics may be way more virulent than the Spanish flu.

    Yet, the two diseases are not at all alike. While the superficial symptoms are quite similar (basically your classic flu symptoms + pneumonia), the two diseases are totally different. Covid-19 seems to be far more easy to transmit than influenza, not secondly because at least some of the popuation was at least partially immune to the Spanish flu due to previous flu pandemics in the second half of the XIX century. Covid-19 is a brand new thing and no-one has even a partial immunity. On the other hand, we have a far more advanced medicine. As a matter of facts, mortality in China seems to have already dropped spectacularly: from around the 13% of the early cases all the way down to around the 1%, and this all thanks to mainy supportive care. This is mainly due to the fact that the doctors have learned how to fight the disease (and have made their findings public so that they can now be used in Europe and the rest of the world). We also have better medicines (and already many antiviral drugs are being tested against Covid-19), and a more advanced way to research vaccines. Now, scientists say that, since this is a brand new virus and not just a mutation of an old virus, it may take many months before we can have a working vaccine, but it may take a relatively short time to find a working cure that may prevent even more deaths.

    Even more interestingly, at least in the advanced world we have way more efficient and widespread medical networks. Especially in countries with socialized medicine and single payer systems that grants access to health providers for everyone, access to advanced medicine is way easier and accessible to everyone. As long as the number of diseased people needing advanced medical care is not too high, there should be far better probabilities to survive the disease, as long as it’s detected early enough.

    In the very end, there is the extremely serious potential for this epidemics to kill way more people than the Spanish flu did, but at the same time there is the potential for it to be shorter and less deadly. This is as much as it can possibily be said at this very moment. It is literally impossible to compare the final figures of an epidemics that occurred 100 years ago (almost to the dot) and one that is just starting right now. In order to do so we would need a glass ball and some superpowers.

Leave an answer