The second and perhaps third wave

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The second and perhaps third wave

By Nathan 'Jolly' Green

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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We have all heard of the saying, “History always repeats itself.” Well, the COVID-19 virus is a pandemic just as the Spanish Flu of 1918 was a pandemic.

Like today, in Britain, temporary hospitals were equipped; every bed in the picture has someone in it. Many in the country wore face masks and social distancing was observed. And, like today, there were the unbelievers who thought it was all a hoax and they would never get ill, least of all die. But the truth was they could, and they did; they died by the millions.

The Spanish Flu lasted about 36 months, and during that time 500 million fell ill in the world, and between 50 million to 100 million died. All those who were going to die and all those who could die, died. There were no more whom it could kill. Fit people had probably developed herd immunity over a three- to five-year period.

There is, however, one significant difference between the Spanish Flu and the 2019 novel coronavirus — it killed the elderly and weak first, even though it also killed people of all other ages. Some stragglers were ill for several years, but the susceptible had died; the old, the sick, the infirm, they all died. The fit eventually stopped being ill from it and it ultimately fizzled out.

Like today, there were no known potions, medicines, or vaccines. At the time, churches were locked down, all places where people gathered were closed, assembly was banned, and stay-at-home periods observed, even curfews enforced.

When the Spanish Flu first appeared in the US in early March 1918 it had all the hallmarks of the seasonal flu, albeit a highly contagious and virulent strain. One of the first registered cases was Albert Gitchell, a US Army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas, who was hospitalised with a 104-degree fever. The virus spread quickly through the army installation; home to some 54,000 troops. By the end of the month 1,100 soldiers had been hospitalised, and 38 (three per cent) had died after developing pneumonia.

As US troops deployed en masse for the war effort in Europe — World War I — they carried the Spanish Flu with them. Throughout April and May of 1918 the virus spread like wildfire through England, France, Spain, and Italy. An estimated three-quarters of the French military was infected in the spring of 1918, and as many as half of British troops. Yet the first wave of the virus didn't appear to be particularly deadly, with symptoms like high fever and malaise usually lasting only three days. According to limited public health data from the time, mortality rates were similar to the seasonal flu. The death rate was about three per cent — the same as today's COVID-19. People in those days died a lot easier, and they considered three per cent pretty acceptable and in line with most other infectious disease mortality rates.

Reported cases of Spanish Flu dropped off over the summer of 1918 and there was hope at the beginning of August that the virus had run its course. People were fed up with being locked down and could not wait to get out, down to the pub, or down to the chip shop. So by mid-summer, thinking it was all but over, the people flocked everywhere, like never before.

What they did not know was viruses tend to come in waves; there was a second wave of infection following closely on the heels of the first. About 3.5 million people had been killed worldwide with the first strike by the virus, but it was only the calm before the storm. Somewhere in Europe, a mutated strain of the Spanish Flu virus had emerged that had the power to kill a perfectly healthy young man or woman within 24 hours of showing the first signs of infection.

In late August 1918, military ships departed the English port city of Plymouth carrying troops unknowingly infected with this new, far deadlier strain of Spanish Flu. As these ships arrived in towns and cities, like Brest in France, Boston in the United States, and Freetown in West Africa, the second wave of the global pandemic began. This second wave went on to kill 10 per cent to 20 per cent of those inflicted, and now a further 45 million to 100 million were to die, and die they did.

From September through November of 1918 the death rate from the Spanish Flu skyrocketed. In the United States alone 195,000 people died from the Spanish Flu in just October 1918. The first wave of the virus had killed all the world's old folk and those with pre-existing illnesses. This newly mutated strain killed anyone, any age; it was unstoppable. Then it got even worse, if that was possible, a massive spike in the middle of the second wave composed of otherwise healthy 25- to 35-year-olds in the prime of their life. They died like flies; no family was spared.

Not only was it shocking that healthy young men and women were dying by the millions worldwide, but it was also how they were dying. Struck with blistering fevers, nasal haemorrhaging, and pneumonia, the patients would drown in their fluid-filled lungs.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Because those dying with COVID-19 also drown on the fluid in their lungs produced by pneumonia.

What we should all fear is that when they blow the whistle and call the all-clear, tell us it's OK to go out again, a second wave will come and catch us all unawares. There is a great probability of that happening. Virus pandemics tend to behave like that.

For those of you who have failed to grasp why you have all been asked to use social distancing, to wear face masks, voluntary and forced family and self-isolation, it's not because they are trying to stop the illness and stop the prevailing deaths, because that is impossible. It's much more straightforward than that. If we all go out and about, and we all get ill at the same time, and they would never be able to control the rate of which we fall sick and the rate that some of us will die. They have to slow it down so that hospitals, and undertakers, can cope. If we all get sick at once, the whole system will collapse.

As for all the silly people who think if they go out and get the virus they will then get better and will, from then on, have immunity from the disease for the future, I am sorry to inform you it does not quite work like that.

Some of you will get well again, some will fully recover, but those who rapidly die will not ever get the immunity — they will be dead.

For me, when they blow the whistle and call the all-clear, I am staying under lockdown. I will watch what happens first for a few weeks. Those of you who cannot wait to get out and risk becoming ill and dying, farewell! Have an awesome trip.

For anyone over 60, pray that they will produce an effective vaccine by the year's end as promised, or they find an existing chemical antiviral drug that works on COVID-19. If they do not, it may be lockdown for some time to come.

For those of you who think I have overstated the case, take a look at this article: https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-second-wave-resurgence

jollygreenandall@gmail.com


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