I read an article recently about the killer pandemic of 1969. It compared the Hong Kong H3N2 pandemic to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-four-news was non-existent in the late ‘60s. However, little news was published about it. We hear daily about the deadly COVID-19 and heard nothing during the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1969.
One tidbit I picked up I thought worth sharing is the origin of the word quarantine and disease. In the 1300s, ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. From the Italian, “quranta giorni” or “40 days” was born.
The last two major pandemics in my lifetime were the Asian flu (1957-58) and the Hong Kong flu (1068-70). Both killed over a million people. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed around 300,000 as of the middle of May 2020. There is noteworthy concern that the COVID-19 deaths ‘of’ and ‘with’ have inflated the actual numbers.
In the old days, politicians, media, and the government did not get involved with telling families what to do. Medical professionals advised and individuals and families took actions to curb the spread of any disease.
Scientists believe that the Hong Kong flu (H3N2) is a strain from the Asian flu (H2N2). The New York Times reported the Hong Kong flu as the worst in United States history. The CDC stated that 100,000 Americans died from the Hong Kong flu, most over the age of 65.
I thought it was interesting that no schools were shut down, no bars closed, no gyms closed, churches continued to have services, restaurants were not in vogue as much as they are today had no restrictions, and the was no social distancing or requirements for masks and gloves. Woodstock and all sporting events went on as if there were no pandemic. Life continued as normal!
Statisticians estimate that between one million and four million people died from Hong Kong flu. One million to one-and-a-half million died from the Avian flu worldwide. The Spanish Flu (1918-19) killed almost 50 million people around the world.
The Hong Kong flu was more deadly than COVID-19. Is social distancing responsible? Each disease has an ability to spread from an infected host to others not infected. Scientists designate a ‘reproduction number’ with each disease to compare it to other contagious diseases. MERS is rated at 0.8. Seasonal influenza (multiple viruses) comes in at 1.0. Ebola has a 2.0 rating.
COVID-19 ranks at 2.5. SARS (killing less than a million worldwide) has a value of 3.5. Mumps is 4.0, Rubella 6.0, and smallpox is also 6.0. The most dangerous infectious disease we experience is measles with a reproduction number of 16.0.
Symptoms of Asian flu, Hong Kong flu and COVID-19 are similar. All cause upper respiratory issues, fever, cough, and trouble breathing. They all attack the elderly with pre-existing conditions. They all kill people of all ages. President Lyndon Johnson and his Vice President Humphrey both had Hong Kong flu and recovered. We are familiar with the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson recovered from COVID-19 recently.
The most interesting case of the Hong Kong flu was Frank Borman. He was an astronaut on the Apollo 8 mission flown in December 1968. He had the Hong Kong flu while in orbit. An Associated Press story about that same time raised the alarm that the Hong Kong flu deaths had doubled across the nation. It did not make it to the front page though. The subsequent release of the Hong Kong vaccine was not given much media play.
Is the government controlling us in a social experiment with social distancing? This idea was developed in the Bush administration with hopes of trying it out on the next pandemic. Here we are today enjoying the fruits of social distancing and economic collapse.
The lessons learned from all previous pandemics in our lifetime is that elderly with pre-existing conditions are the most susceptible. Do we need to protect the common worker along with the highest risk? Or must we act immediately to keep those at highest risk safe as other solutions are developed in society?
We lived through the Asian flu pandemic in the ‘50s and the Hong Kong flu pandemic in the ‘60s. Could we have survived the COVID-19 with less governmental impact on our freedoms and lifestyles? The answer is, Yes. Would more people have died? Unknown, because we never took care to protect those needing protection.
Herd immunity requires that most of the population become infected and recover from a disease. Immunity exists nearly everywhere and there is no place for the virus to go to infect another person and dies out. The recent studies done by Stanford University and the University of Southern California indicate that COVID-19 has already infected fifty to eighty times the number of people already confirmed with testing. That is a healthy start to herd immunity.
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – https://RedOLaughlin.com