Abhinav SENGUPTA, Department of Geography, University of Delhi, India
Soma SENGUPTA, Department of Geography, University of Delhi, India
Two pandemics, separated by exactly a century (100 years), yet having stark similarities and glaring differences.
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed an estimated 20 to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. The 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before swiftly spreading around the world. At the time, there were no effective drugs or vaccines to treat this killer flu strain. Citizens were ordered to wear masks; schools, theatres and businesses were shuttered, and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues before the virus ended its deadly global march.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 virus was officially a pandemic after barrelling through 114 countries in three months and infecting over 118,000 people. And the spread wasn’t anywhere near finished. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus—a new coronavirus strain that has not been previously found in people. Symptoms include respiratory problems, fever and cough, and can lead to pneumonia and death. Like SARS, it’s spread through droplets from sneezes. The first reported case in China appeared November 17, 2019, in the Hubei Province, but went unrecognized. Eight more cases appeared in December with researchers pointing to an unknown virus. Without a vaccine available, the virus spread beyond Chinese borders to nearly every country in the world. By December 2020, it had infected more than 75 million people and led to more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide. The number of new cases was growing faster than ever, with over 500,000 reported each day on average.
Exactly two years after the first reported case, the official count of confirmed cases in November 2021 stands at 258 million, and reported deaths exceed 5 million. Estimated deaths by various sources are far more, ranging from 9 to 22 million.
Keywords: Pandemic|Spanish flu|Coronavirus|WHO|China