COVID-19 vs. Spanish Flu:What has actually changed in a hundred years?


Kyle Sheives, Reporter

Humanity has faced many viruses in its time, but have we learned anything from it? Let us see from a relatively recent example of the 1918 Spanish Flu. Fun fact: it did not originate in Spain. It was mostly just called that due to Spain being neutral during World War 1 and having no restrictions to report.

The Spanish Flu ravaged the entire world post World War 1. The world had just been through the its most devastating war to date. Unlike COVID-19, this epidemic had a high mortality rate among 20-40 year olds. According to, the Spanish flu claimed 20-50 million lives (1 to 2%) worldwide in just two years. While the current death toll of COVID-19 is 937 thousand, this could be due to the high mortality rate primarily in the elderly. The Institute for Health in Washington University predicts that by the end of 2020 that the death rate will be 2-4 million(0.05% at most of the current population, 7.8 billion). 

One of the tools that has saved many lives in the current fight against Corona are ventilators, which was not available until the 1940s. If the world had ventilators during the Spanish flu, it might have been possible to prevent more deaths from occurring. During the Spanish Flu a lot of classes were told to be outside or closed. It was believed at the time that being outside decreased the threat of catching corona. That being said, that was mostly colleges, not elementary schools. With access to online learning and social media, we can contact and learn from each other without the chance of infecting someone. I´m going to bet that a lot of people are happy about that.

The world today is much more connected than it was during 1918. This both carries benefits and dangers, for example we can more easily avoid war due international pressure. A danger is a virus can spread to almost any corner of the globe. As a more visual example, think of stink bugs. They originated in Asia, but now they at least in the US as a result of their ancestors being in cargo. This connection makes the spread of good and bad easier. Bill Gates once said, ¨The worst pandemic in modern history was the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed tens of millions of people. Today with how interconnected the world is, it would spread faster.¨

To sum it all up, I am trying to say that we have come far in the last hundred years for good or bad. It can be terrifying to face the reality of our current situation, but we have any advantages that should not be forgotten. Medical innovations and technology has and will help us through this epidemic. So I would advise following the general guidelines and enjoying the advantages we have.