Newsletter - February 2021

The First World War ended on November 11, 1918.  If people thought they could resume their lives again they were in for a surprise. 1918 was the year of the Spanish Flu.

When the war ended many physicians were working with the military and so there were areas of the United States where there was a shortage of physicians.  Of course, many medical personnel came down with the flu themselves.  In some areas hospitals were so full of flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings were converted into makeshift hospitals and some were staffed by medical students.

Some communities imposed quarantines and ordered citizens to wear masks, shut down public places and stay inside.  People were advised against shaking hands.  They were to stay indoors.  Libraries put a halt on lending books and regulations were passed banning spitting.

Since there was no cure for the flu, many physicians prescribed medication they felt would deal with symptoms including aspirin,which had been trademarked by Bayer in 1899.  Medical professionals advised patients to take up to 30 grams a day which we know today is toxic.  The medical consensus today is that doses of aspirin above four grams are unsafe.  Symptoms of aspirin poisoning include hyperventilation and pulmonary edema (the buildup of fluid in the lungs) and it is now believed that many of the October deaths were actually caused or hastened by aspirin poisoning.

The 1918 flu struck down many healthy, young people.  More U.S. soldiers died from the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during the war. 40% of the U.S. Navy got the flu while 36% of the Army became ill.  The death toll attributed to the Spanish flu is often estimated at 20 Million to 50 Million victims worldwide.  Some estimates run as high as 100 Million victims which would be about 3% of the world’s population.  Accurate numbers are unknown due to poor or lack of medical record keeping.

The Spanish Flu was called Spanish because news coverage of the flu did start in Spain.  

News of the flu was censored by Allied countries and the Central Powers to maintain morale. Spanish news sources were the only ones reporting on the flu although it did not originate there.

Flu outbreaks are a yearly occurrence and happen every year.  They vary in severity since flu viruses can rapidly mutate.  The first wave of the Spanish flu occurred in the spring of 1918 and was generally mild. In the fall of 1918 a highly contagious wave of influenza appeared. Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate.  In 1918, the average life expectancy in America fell by a dozen years.  The Spanish Flu infected about 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims including about 675,000 Americans.  

Influenza is a virus that attacks the respiratory system and is highly contagious.  An infected person can transmit the virus by coughing, sneezing or talking.  A person who touches something with the virus and then touches his or her mouth, eyes or nose can become infected.

By the summer of 1919, the flu came to an end.  Those infected either died or developed immunity.  In 2008, researchers announced what had made the 1918 flu so deadly.  A group of three genes enabled the virus to weaken a person’s bronchial tubes and lungs which cleared the way for bacterial pneumonia.  Since 1918, there have been several influenza pandemics.  

1957 – 1958 -  2 Million people worldwide died – 70,000 in the United States

1968  -1969  - 1 Million people worldwide died  - 34,000 Americans

2009 – 2010 – H1N1 (swine flu) 12,000 Americans died

In 2019 another virus appeared in the world.  Covid 19 is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus and it has spread worldwide.  

A coronavirus is the name for a large set of illnesses, including the common cold and other respiratory infections.  The 2019 novel coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2.  The United States learned about this virus shortly after a cluster of severe pneumonia cases were reported on New Year’s Eve 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China.  There is evidence that the earliest cases of Covid-19 were seen in November 2019 but we are still learning about the origins.

Americans contracted the virus while traveling in other countries or after exposure to someone who had been to China or Europe.  The spread of the illness made it very difficult to determine the source of infection.

The symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, body aches, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat about 5 to 6 days after infection.  Some people lose their sense of smell which can affect taste.  It does not appear that anyone is naturally immune to this virus and there appears to be no reason to believe a person has antibodies unless they recently had the virus.  Children appear to be among those least likely to have significant damage from the virus while older people, especially those with underlying physical conditions are at the greatest risk and are the group with the highest death rate.  

The question has arisen as to where the virus came from.  On March 27, 2020 a report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency updated its assessment of the origin of the virus and reported that the virus may have been accidentally released from an infectious diseases lab. The report included the possibility that the new coronavirus emerged “accidentally”due to “unsafe laboratory practices” in the Chinese city of Wuhan.  Recently, the World Health Organization visited Wuhan and reported that the virus may have come from a wet market.  The veracity and accuracy of this conclusion is open to debate.

Thanks to President Trump and his removal of governmental road blocks a number of companies were able to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.  Time will tell if the vaccine is able to stop the virus without negative side effects.  Taking the vaccine is a decision each person needs to make for themselves.  It is believed that it will take 75% of Americans getting the vaccine to reach herd immunity.

The side effect of Covid-19 is the loss of freedom for Americans and the total disruption of our daily lives. People have reason to be concerned and careful about dealing with the virus.  However, what has developed is that the virus has given bureaucrats and people who have control issues to start shutting down our society.  The virus has made very clear the top values of many of our governors. Churches were closed but abortion clinics were open.  Outdoor dining was stopped.  Nail Salons and Beauty Shops were closed although these are businesses that are always extra sanitary and precautions are taken.  Major damage has been done to our schools and our children.  Many schools have been closed for a year. Lessons by Zoom is not the same as lessons in person.  Private schools have been open and there has been no epidemic of the virus among the children.  All of this is a reminder that hysteria is not the way to make the best decision as to how we live our lives.  It is also a reminder that we need to pay attention to the people we vote for.

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