Learning from history
Here are a selection of interesting pieces I have come across in learning lessons from the ‘Spanish’ flu of 1918. Now the two pandemics are different. Our COVID19 pandemic primarily targets older people, while the Spanish flu hit those in the 20-30’s age bracket. The Spanish flu claimed over 45 million, but almost certainly never started in Spain!
What is the value of a single life (answer $10 million?) Check out this article for an interesting piece commenting on some research by Harvard University economist Robert Barro who argues that social distancing in 1918 did not work to reduce deaths because it did not last long enough. Barro argues that 12 weeks of social distancing works much better than 4-6 weeks.
What was the general approach taken during the Spanish flu of 1918? Check out this BBC article for a discussion of different approaches to the outbreak.
Pandemics come in waves – This National Geographic piece picks up the fact that pandemics tend to move in waves. A key takeaway is that we are unlikely to see a ‘one and done’ reaction. It is more likely to see a few waves of infections until we have a successful vaccine. Take a look at the Spanish flu waves seen in 1918/1919 in the chart below:
This an interesting Guardian piece: It seems that epidemics follow a similar pattern: They are ignored or dismissed until they are impossible to turn a blind eye too. That was very similar to the path of this pandemic.