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This is how SA bungled the Spanish flu of 1918 - lessons for the COVID-19 spread

11 March 2020 7:04 PM
Tags:
Coronavirus
spanish flu
COVID-18
Lessons can be learnt from history, they say.

The 1918 influenza pandemic, known as the Spanish flu, was an unusually deadly pandemic that started in the year World War One ended.

It infected 500 million people around the world or about 27 per cent of the then world population.

The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million.

in South Africa people did not appreciate the magnitude of what they were facing.

So much so that South Africa was one of the hardest hit parts of the world in 1918.

Emeritus Professor of history, Howard Phillips, draws comparisons between the spread of coronavirus and the spread of the flu more than a hundred years ago.

South Africa had a very well-developed rail system. So large numbers of people, initially soldiers and then subsequently people fleeing from infected centres, whether they were migrant workers or families trying to seek some safety ,spread the Spanish flu. They spread the flu even into very remote parts of South Africa, literally like wildfire.

Emeritus Professor Howard Phillips - UCT

The need for strict isolation and quarantine could not be clearer, that's one of the lessons of the 1918 flu. Authorities did not have the slightest idea what they were dealing with and allowed it to spread.

Emeritus Professor Howard Phillips

If we can put reliance on Chinese figures and trends it really looks as if the lockdown in Wuhan and elsewhere has confined the spread. I do not know how much we can deduce from this but this is the country where it begun and moved through phases. So the lesson from this is if you try and maintain tight control over the movement of individuals - because that is what spreads the virus - people moving around - then indeed that is the way to go to try and curb its possible spread in South Africa.

Emeritus Professor Howard Phillips

Listen to the sound clip below.

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11 March 2020 7:04 PM
Tags:
Coronavirus
spanish flu
COVID-18

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