This book is very timely, not just in being written for the centenary of the Spanish Flu Pandemic but in coinciding with the Chinese Wuhan 19 Pandemic. The author has provided a detailed review of the Spanish Flu, with its impact on war and society, and the many unanswered questions. – Most Highly Recommended.
The coincidence of this book release with the Chinese Wuhan 19 Pandemic adds a further layer to its importance and inevitably provides a basis for comparison, a comparison that many will find irresistible. It its own right, it covers the Spanish Flu Pandemic which was a terrible conclusion to the Great War. On top of the awful toll from the fighting, the Spanish Flu scythed through the nations of the world, causing even more death. Those who escaped participation in the war did not escape the global pandemic. Although it hit the world only a hundred years ago there are many myths and many unanswered questions. The obvious question is: why was it named the Spanish Flu? The author has looked at possible sites of origin, but there is no identified Patient Zero, and no clearly identified point of origin. What we do know is the terrible cost of the pandemic and its impact on societies around the World. Although it did not wreak the havoc of the Black Death, it was a significant pandemic that swept around the world very quickly and overwhelmed the medical facilities even in the richest countries. The author has used the stories of real people, survivors and victims, to bring the story to life, looking at how the pandemic changed the focus of science and public health. In doing this, she has looked at how the pandemic unfolded on each continent. This would have been an absorbing book under any circumstances, but it gains further importance by providing a basis of comparison with the Wuhan 19 Pandemic of 2019-2020. There are parallels between the two pandemics and also important differences, not least that we know the point of origin of Wuhan 19, at least down to two pathogen labs in Wuhan, and the significant difference that Wuhan 19 was engineered. We do not know who Patient Zero was, or the how and why of infection. The Chinese Government has behaved appallingly by lying about the pathogen and attempting to use propaganda to confuse this threatening global pandemic. Whether the pathogen was released by accident, by gross incompetence, or deliberately, the actions of the Chinese Government have turned what would have been an unfortunate incident into a global pandemic that is costing many tens of thousands of deaths, with a final toll of perhaps millions and the danger of recurring risk. If the release was deliberate, and there are unsettling pattern analysis indications that this is indeed the reality, it will be the first global biowar. The Spanish Flu has mitigated some of the risk. For cheap political purposes, commentators will rake through the pandemic as to some extent they did with Spanish Flu. There will be attempts to compare the outcome in various nations and continents. The scope for this is enormous because there are many unknowns that may never be uncovered as in 1918-1920 and the years that followed. However, public health was greatly improved by knowledge of the Spanish Flu. What may not be understood is the impact on other conditions in 1918-1920 and this will be an even greater challenge following the Wuhan 19 Pandemic. Those countries that took draconian steps in lock downs and the rapid construction of large emergency hospitals may have greatly limited the health impact of Wuhan 19. In Britain the state of the enormous NHS nationalized industry gave serious concerns. It has dealt with the Wuhan threat at the expense of treating other serious conditions. In 1918-1920, many of those other life threatening conditions were untreatable, where today, the patient can either be cured by timely treatment, or be able to live longer through drugs and other treatments. In 2020 most who would have been treatable but may now be diagnosed and/or treated too late to achieve a normal probability of outcome. Equally, it is clear that a great many of the Wuhan 19 attributed deaths are in fact deaths from other causes where the patient might have been diagnosed as being infected with Wuhan 19 or simply died in hospital of other causes during the pandemic without being tested for Wuhan 19 infection. We also do not know how pollution in 1918-1920 and in 2020 affected those infected. In the Spanish Flu Pandemic more than 100 million died and the exact number of mortalities is unknown because, in some areas, record keeping was not effective and neither was medical diagnosis. In the early Twentieth Century, coal was used in huge quantities for heating, electric power production, gas production and to power the industrial heart of countries like Great Britain. That produced 'pea-souper' fogs that crippled towns and cities during the winter months, caused widespread respitory illness and many deaths. That would have weakened those infected by Spanish Flu. Similarly, pollution in 2020 is widespread and causes, or worsens, many medical conditions. The obvious factor is vehicle exhaust fumes, most noticeable because lock down has dramatically reduced road traffic and its consequential pollution. Less obvious is pollution in food additives and the widespread use of plastics in virtually every human activity. The conclusion of Wuhan 19 may prove to be a triumph for medical treatment of a deadly pathogen with very few casualties directly and solely from the infection itself. The death toll may be seen later to be most commonly a result of other illness from ageing and/or pollution causing a situation where resistance to the Wuhan 19 pathogen is too weak to provide much for doctors and nurses to work with. The Spanish Flu situation was different because medical care was swamped and the state of health care was too primitive to cope with a pandemic in a way that is possible in 2020. When political activists pick over the Wuhan 19 disaster they will overlook two important factors. Firstly they will be blind to the enormous progress made since 1918-1920 in medical care, communications and the ability to respond more effectively to a sudden and unforecast threat that has required on-the-job learning and the taking of decisions without all the critical information, but where delay in taking decisions would have been worse than risking some poor decisions. Secondly, they will probably fail to understand just how much we learned from the Spanish Flu and how it improved health care to better defend against a future pandemic.