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The Flu of 1918 and lessons learned

First published April 2020!!!!!

c. 1918  A U.S. Red Cross employee wears a face mask in an attempt to help decrease the spread of influenza.

By Bob Barney

If you're unfamiliar with the history of the Spanish Flu of 1918 you may be unfamiliar with its tragic dimensions.  The Spanish flu It infected a third of the people on Earth--from the poorest immigrants of New York City to the king of Spain, Franz Kafka, Mahatma Gandhi and Woodrow Wilson. But despite a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people, it exists in our memory as an afterthought to World War I.  Between the first case recorded on 4 March 1918, and the last sometime in March 1920, it killed 50-100 million people, or between 2.5 and 5 per cent of the global population. Estimates suggest that the world population in 1918 was 1.8 billion.  Erupting in three waves, the killer flu brought about social, political, and economic changes reminiscent of those of the Black Death nearly 600 years earlier. And its impact was global, whereas the Black Death brought disaster largely to Europe and Asia.

The Spanish Flu was one the biggest disaster of the twentieth century.  In all likelihood, the disease killed more than World Wars I and II combined. We Westerners may fail to recognize the pandemic's catastrophic scope because Europe and North America "reported the lowest death rates, on average, so their experiences were atypical." In India, for example, including present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, the rate was ten times that in America. An estimated 500,000 children were orphaned in South Africa alone, and as many as 18 million Indians died in the pandemic, about 6 per cent of its population. 

Why "Spanish"? To read the newspapers of 1918, Spain was hit particularly hard by the virus. On the contrary: 1918 was the last year of World War I and, in an attempt to maintain morale, the United States, Britain, France and Germany suppressed newspaper reports of the illness. Neutral Spain, with no war morale to maintain, did not censor its newspapers; so, to the rest of the world, the flu appeared particularly nasty there.   The "Spanish" flu is a misnomer.  It probably started in either, China, the Western Front in the European War, or as some wonder, the United States. 

It may be difficult for us today to grasp just how different the world was merely a century ago when the Spanish Flu broke out.   Science-based medicine was in its infancy even in the wealthiest countries. What today we call "alternative" therapies such as osteopathy or homeopathy were at least as likely to gain the trust of those who fell ill. In fact, physicians may have done as much harm as good, the Hippocratic Oath notwithstanding. Little wonder. Viruses occupied only a tiny corner of the psychic universe of 1918. They hadn't been seen, and there was no test for them—much less a vaccine or any effective treatment. To compound matters, other epidemic diseases were often raging simultaneously, including typhus and bubonic plague. In many areas, doctors were convinced the flu was the plague.

World War I was a global military conflict from 1914 through 1918. It killed 9 million soldiers, wounded 21 million, and left 7 million disabled. Another 10 million civilians died. Germany and France each lost 80% of their male population aged between 15 and 49. It was called the Great War because it affected people in every continent. It was supposed to be the "War to End All Wars." Instead, it set the stage for World War IIthirty years later. It had 10 lasting impacts that changed the world forever.

With World War I raging, the British, French and German governments downplayed the virus’s spread, fearing negative press might hurt the war effort. Spain, unengaged in the fighting and watching from the sidelines, reported honestly on the disease, leading to the false impression that the virus originated in the country, hence its misleading name. 

In the United States, Wilson, a Democrat, declared all bad news illegal as soon as the U.S. entered the war. A complicit Congress passed The Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made criticism of the government a crime carrying a 20-year sentence. Smithsonian magazine notes that “government posters and advertisements urged people to report to the Justice Department anyone “who spreads pessimistic stories…cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war.”” 

Labor organizer Eugene Debs, a hero of Bernie Sanders, was very quickly made an example of. One month after the Sedition Act took effect, the Socialist party chair and repeat presidential candidate gave an anti-war speech before a crowd of more than 1,200 in Canton, Ohio.

“The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives,” Debs said, later adding, “These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty.” 

Weeks later, Debs was arrested and charged under the Espionage Act with “intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States.” He was sentenced to 10 years in jail, though the sentence was commuted two years later by Wilson’s successor. 

Wilson, who won re-election on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War,” had created the Committee on Public Information—a wartime propaganda machine—on the suggestion of Arthur Bullard, who once wrote, “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms… The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.” CPI staffers cranked out press releases, often republished word-for-word in newspapers around the country, that ginned up support for the war effort and sugarcoated the situation at home.

The consequences of this campaign would be an unknowable number of American lives. In Philadelphia, newspaper editors wary of disloyalty accusations avoided publishing doctors’ warnings about the public health risks of an upcoming parade. Within 48 hours of the event, thousands in the city fell sick with Spanish flu, but public officials continued to insist it was business as usual. “Bodies remained uncollected in homes for days,” researchers at the National Academy of Scienceswrite, “until eventually open trucks and even horse-drawn carts were sent down city streets and people were told to bring out the dead.”

1918 Baseball players, one batting and one catching, plus an umpire behind the plate, wear flu masks. Nothing shut down in 1918

During this time, no schools were closed, no business' shut down, everything remained open, and while the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.

Wall Street was not affected, business boomed, the media did not report on it and life continued while many died. In fact, health authorities, in an attempt to reduce panic, were known to refer to it as "only the flu."

While I am not suggesting that we should absolutely ignore reporting on Coronavirus, I am saying that we should limit the panic, as was done in 1918. Although I think that too much was done to hide from the public The Plain Truth about the 1918 disaster, I am suggesting that we should today have found a balance of sound ideas, warnings, and absolutely downplaying the media's role in spreading panic, so they can make more money - because this is what is going on today! If you look at the graph below, one can easily see in context a true disaster vs an artificial disaster!  We have a politician and press made crisis on our hands and more harm than good will be the result.

Coronavirus1 click on map to enlarge

In conclusion my advice is simple.  Follow sound medical evidence, pray continually to God, because believe it or not, it is only with God that you will be saved or die, and practice clean living.  Eat only CLEAN FOODS! Did you know God told us what to eat and what not to eat 6,000 years ago?  Pork and shellfish IS NOT ON GOD's Menu!  Neither are bats, snakes and dogs.  A very good article can be read on this entire subject HERE.  God knows what is healthy for us, as God made us!  Yes this is a corny idea in a world of modern science and anti-godism, but again, it's The Plain Truth. God exists, God kills, and allows killing, and also saves whomever God wants to!  One of the names in the Bible for God is Jehovah Rapha – The LORD who heals. Jehovah is translated as “The Existing One” or “Lord.” The chief meaning of Jehovah, or Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew word Havah meaning “to be” or “to exist.” It is the proper name of Jesus Christ in His pre-human existence. 

Go to God in fasting and prayer, OBEY God's health laws and continue life in confidence that God protects and heals.

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