Historians are comparing Spanish flu pandemic with COVID-19 because they have these stark similarities

Despite the differences, the parallels between 1918 Spanish flu and what is happening in 2020 are stark.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to grow and so are the parallels being drawn between it and another deadly virus ‘Spanish flu’ that struck the globe more than a century ago.

The Spanish flu started in the spring of 1918, with one case in the United States. However, by the end of 1919 and World War I, the pandemic had killed as many as 100 million people worldwide.


On that level, it was a far deadlier disease than the COVID-19, where fatalities have so far tended to be among the older generation and those with underlying health conditions.

However, despite the differences, the parallels between 1918 and what is happening in 2020 are stark.

Similarities between the two Pandemics

  • The spread or crossover of a virus from an animal reservoir to humans.
  • Both viruses were and are highly infectious, being spread through the air by sneezing, coughing, or by touching infected surfaces. 
  • Both formed symptoms like difficulty in breathing, fever, coughing, and sneezing, while both could open a pathway to pneumonia and death.
  • Following a similar pattern as the Spanish flu, there is currently no preventive vaccine for COVID-19.


 While speaking on the differences and similarities of the Spanish flu with the current COVID-19 pandemic, author and historian Skip Desjardin said, “Both viruses are similar in some ways that are frightening and others that are comforting. The number of infected people from pandemics is scarier than the science because of the exponential way in which things spread.”

Desjardin added, “The comforting part is that one of the things we learned a  hundred years ago was that social isolation, early diagnosis, and the treatment that you can get when hospitals are overcrowded or even closed are effective.”

Skip Desjardin further said, “The government and the health officials must tell people what’s exactly going on. Tell them how to help themselves and how to avoid contracting the disease if they come down with it. The authorities must educate people for when to see a doctor and when not to.”

“Not all the technology and advancement were necessarily there 100 years ago where we were in the middle of World War I, and people were forced to go to work. As a result, more people were infected and made it worse,” he added.

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