Sunday, May 17, 2020

Things Could Be Worse

We live in a time of adversity. Some might call it the worst of times. Yet, some have said the same of other times.
That's, coincidentally, true of the Spanish flu of 1918. My great-uncle and namesake was at Camp Funston in Kansas where some historians believe it originated. My relative was one of the fortunate who survived that pandemic which claimed an estimated 50 million lives around the globe.
The true extent of damage, both in lives and economics, for COVID-19 remains to be seen.
We are, though, more fortunate in many ways than our ancestors who suffered through the Spanish flu.
The Internet, for instance, provides the latest information and updates it in a timely fashion. The news didn't travel as fast in 1918. On the downside, conspiracy theories and quack prescriptions spread equally as fast as facts these days, adding to confusion and heightening fears.
Again, thanks to the Internet, China was able to dispense the DNA of the virus to other nations in a remarkably short time, giving researchers a leg up on understanding the virus and, hopefully, speeding up the process of developing a vaccine.
There's also the fact many advances have been made in medicine since 1918, advances which assure better treatment of patients and ability to save lives. In 1918, we didn't even know what a virus was, let alone how to deal with one. Physicians knew the disease spread through respiratory drops but they didn't have microscopes powerful enough to view a virus. You couldn't test for something you didn't know existed.
Because they did know how it spread, they did determine the value of social distancing, which has proven equally effective in the current pandemic. Unfortunately, then as now, some people are slow learners and fail to heed the best advice.
Then, as now, some in high offices put the economy or their own self-interest above the welfare of the public and downplayed the dangers, pushing to ease restrictions and social distancing. That did not bode well then, and it won't in the present. This is a dangerous disease and it won't go away just because we want it to.