What's in a name
The Spanish flu. That is a textbook example of unfair naming. The pandemic broke out in the war torn year of 1918. Intelligence in the belligerent countries censored the news, playing it down. Spain was neutral in the First World war. Hence the news was not censored. And when King Alfonso XIII got sick, the flu got its name.
With other nations not reporting the deaths, Spain seemed hard hit. There is though no evidence the flu originated in Spain.
A flu by any other name
Not everybody used the term Spanish flu. In Senegal it is was known as the ‘Brazilian’. While in Brazil it became ‘German flu’. The Polish named it the ‘Bolshevic disease.
And in Spain? They named it the ‘Naples soldier‘. After a 1916 operetta. Why? Because it was catchy. Really?!
Apart from sporadic ‘Chinese disease’ , political correctness rules today. An anonymous covid-19 must suit us all.
Public health measures
Very little has changed. Social distancing, closing schools and public spaces. The use of face masks was heatedly debated. Some even organized in anti mask groups. Especially when the use became mandatory. As it happens today.
A wide range of medicine and remedies came along. Some seriously poisonous. Arsenics and digitalis. Others leaned toward the snake oil products. Shady lucrative deals characterized the period. Hydroxychloroquine spontaneously comes to mind.
Famous flu victims
Somewhere between 20 and 50 million people died because of the Spanish flu. Four waves, geographically distanced, spread terror.
As it goes with big numbers, some victims were famous. Painters Klimt and Egon Schiele. The father of modern sociology, Max Weber. President Donald Trump‘s grandfather, Frederick. The two children who saw the Madonna in Fatimà, Portugal.
Many others got sick but survived. Mahatma Ghandi, Friedrich Hayek, Walt Disney, Mary Pickford.
Does time really heal?
There was no vaccine for the Spanish flu. After the fourth wave, the pandemic came to a halt. As those that were infected either died or developed immunity.
Rather than waiting, we are all hoping for a vaccine. Whether this is realistic can be questioned. In the meantime, wear a mask. And don’t downplay what is serious.