The coronavirus pandemic has well and truly got our attention right now, and one word that keeps popping up is “unprecedented,” meaning that it’s uncharted territory to all concerned, which is true.
However, my Dad was born in exactly the same circumstances, during the great Spanish flu pandemic which raged from 1918 to 1920. He was called a “flu baby” and was born premature, and they thought he was born dead, so the overtaxed medical staff put him in a shoebox and put it to one side while they tended to the mother and all the other thousands of patients they had. Some time later a nurse noticed the baby moving in the shoebox, and my Dad’s life was saved, which is why I am able to be here writing this article.
But there’s more! In that flu pandemic, people were told to stay at home, just like today. They were told to stay away from other people, like today. There were worldwide lockdowns, where no one was allowed to go out into the streets, and some were shot for doing so. Meetings, work, churches, synagogues, mosques, sports – all were closed down. Those were the days before antibiotics had been discovered, and many of the health aids we have today were unavailable, so over 50 million people died worldwide, mostly from secondary causes which could have been treated by modern medicine. I remember my parents, who were born in Durban, South Africa, often talking about it and how terrible it was.
But it passed. And this one will too. But it is imperative that we stay away from each other, and stay at home, and wash our hands and faces and practice very strict hygiene. Cities in the 1918 pandemic that did this for 6 weeks or more were the ones that fared the best, and had very few deaths. This is the key: if the virus can’t spread, it dies within days. It can only live by finding a new host. Deny it that option, and it will die.
In 1920, once the virus had died out, the world continued. It was rough for a while economically, but people managed. So don’t lose hope, the sun will come out again. Times are hard now, but they won’t last forever, and if we do it right and play our part, being responsible and thinking of others, it will shorten the time that we all have to suffer.
Learning from the 1918 pandemic, it is obvious that we must be in no hurry to come out of lockdown. Some cities did that when the infection rate dropped, and they had a resurgence of cases, so we must stay in lockdown until this enemy is dead.
So enjoy the spring – it is a sign of the hope that is budding, that this tragic worldwide scourge will soon be but a memory, and we will once again picnic in the sunshine with our family and friends, and enjoy our world!
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