In this dismaying season of Covid-19 here are a few facts about The Spanish Flu.

    The Spanish flu also known as the 1918 flu pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic. An influenza pandemic is an epidemic of an influenza virus that spreads on a worldwide scale and infects a large proportion of the world population.  Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected some 500 million people – say about a quarter of the world’s population at that time. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, behind the Black Death.

    The Black Death, has many names such as Pestilence, the Great Bubonic Plague, the Great Plague or simply the Plague, or less commonly the Great Mortality or the Black Plague. It was the most devastating pandemic recorded in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.

    What is Eurasia? Eurasia is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Located primarily in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Pacific Ocean on the east, the Arctic Ocean on the north, and by Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean in the south. 

    The bacterium Yersinia pestis is a kind of organism, which results in several forms of plagues such as septicemic, pneumonic and the most common bubonic. The Black Death was the first major European outbreak of plague and the second plague pandemic. The first being the Plague of Justinian.

    The Plague of Justinian (541–542 AD, with recurrences until 750) was a pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and especially its capital, Constantinople, as well as the Sasanian Empire and port cities around the entire Mediterranean Sea, as merchant ships harboured rats with plague that came from fleas a small flightless insect. Some historians believe the plague of Justinian was one of the deadliest pandemics in history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 25–100 million people during the two centuries of recurrence, a death toll equivalent to as much as half of Europe’s population at the time of, the first outbreak. The plague’s social and cultural impact has been compared to that of the Black Death, that devastated Eurasia in the fourteenth century, but research published in 2019 argued that the plague’s death toll and social effects have been exaggerated.

     The plague created religious, social, and economic upheavals, with profound effects in the course of European history.

    The Black Death probably originated in Central Asia or East Asia, from where it travelled along the Silk Road, reaching Crimea (a peninsula located on the northern coast of the Black Sea in in Eastern Europe) by 1343. From there, it was most likely carried by fleas again–a small wingless jumping insect that feeds on the blood of mammals and birds. It at times transmitted diseases through its bite also, including plague and myxomatosis, and lived on black rats that travelled on Genoese merchant ships of, The Republic of Genoa that lies in present day Italy and was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 on the north western Italian coast, incorporating Corsica an island, from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories, throughout the Mediterranean, reaching the rest of Europe via the Italian Peninsula.

    The Black Death also travelled through The Silk Road. Silk Road was a network of trade routes that connected the East and West, and was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions between these regions from the 2nd century BCE up to the 18th century. The Silk Road primarily refers to the land routes connecting East Asia and Southeast Asia with South Asia, Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Southern Europe.

    The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30 to 60% of Europe’s population. In total, the plague may have reduced the world population from an estimated 475 million to 350–375 million in the 14th century. It took 200 years for Europe’s population to recover to its previous level, and some regions such as Florence did not recover until the 19th century. Outbreaks of the plague recurred until the early 20th century. The point to note is that, even in Covid-19 pandemic, both Spain and Italy are very badly affected.

    To maintain the morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. But newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit. This gave rise to the name Spanish flu. This indeed is the reason why countries don’t want to name pandemics on names of countries. American President Donald Trump called Covid 19 as a Chinese Virus for which there was a lot of criticism. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemic’s geographic origin, with varying views to its exact location.

    Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults. Scientists offer several possible explanations for the high mortality rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Some analyses have shown the virus to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm. Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is a form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) that can be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections and certain drugs that ravages the stronger immune system of young adults. In contrast, a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains. Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene promoted bacterial super-infection. This super-infection killed most of the victims, typically after a prolonged bedridden illness. The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009.

    Covid19 is suspected to have come from the bats in China.

    Stay safe stay at home.

By Kamlesh Tripathi




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