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Spanish flu and Coronavirus

BY EVELYN OPILAS –   “… They were advised not to shake hands with others, to stay indoors, to avoid touching library books and to wear masks. Schools and theaters closed…”

Sound familiar?

That’s what Americans were advised so as not to be infected with the ‘Spanish flu’, said to be the worst pandemic to date.

According to website, “In 1918, a strain of influenza known as Spanish flu caused a global pandemic, spreading rapidly and killing indiscriminately. Young, old, sick and otherwise-healthy people all became infected, and at least 10% of patients died.”

Fast forward 2020, the advise has also been hammered on all to lessen any potential infection from Covid-19.

“COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms include fever, coughing, a sore throat and shortness of breath. The virus can spread from person to person, but good hygiene can prevent infection…” said the Australian Department of Health website.

Although called ‘Spanish flu’, says the virus did not come from Spain but – you guessed it – China through Chinese labourers needed by European farms during WWI (1918).

For Covid-19, the virus seems to have been spread by infected Chinese individuals who have recently travelled from Wuhan, Hubei province in China to other parts of the world, spreading the virus to pandemic level.

The link becomes more poignant as we mark ANZAC Day 25 April, when we honour the young men who went to war in WWI and also remember how many among them may have died – not from battle wounds but from a virus – the Spanish flu.

In 2020, many activities deemed as ‘regular calendar events’, including ANZAC Day, have been cancelled.

Reason: Covid-19 which seems to have  suspended/ shut down/ stopped most activities in the social, economic, educational, religious, political spheres. People have been ‘confined to quarters’, in lockdown, only allowed to undertake ‘essential’ activities.

Covid-19 has also claimed the lives of many frontline ‘battlers’ – doctors, nurses, health care workers – modern-day heroes who have been infected with the virus in the course of their duties, and who have sacrificed their lives in the service of others.

May their heroism be remembered too with gratitude, fortitude, hope – as well as that of the citizens who followed the rules that the frontliners be safe without them about.

1918 and 2020; Spanish flu and Covid-19. Pandemics almost a century apart. Same place of origin.

Lest we forget.

– (c) 2020 Evelyn A. Opilas