The Comparisons Between Covid-19 and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918

The current pandemic doing the rounds, Covid-19, has meant that many people are awaiting a vaccine and treatments that can save lives and return the world to normality. Companies that do adaptive phase 1 studies such as Richmond Pharmacology have been doing clinical trials for a long time, but the news headlines are currently focussed on them, and the promise of a vaccine being available soon.


It is easy to feel that this is new – it is all new to many of us and we have had to adapt to new ways of working. But this situation is something that the world has faced many times before – the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 caused a devastating loss of lives and infected around a third of the population of the world.

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Unlike Covid-19, which is more dangerous to older people, the Spanish flu was killing younger people who were seemingly fit and healthy. To make matters worse, it hit Britain whilst the country was still at war, meaning that it was easily spread in barracks and amongst the soldiers fighting the war.


It does bear some resemblances to today – some public places were closed and some states in America enforced the wearing of face masks. Across the world, the responses were mixed, just as they are today.  In Britain, some things such as public transport, were sprayed with disinfectant, but public health messaging at the time was mixed and confusing.

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But today we do have a vaccine for seasonal flu – although it does still claim many lives every year, science and medicine are always working on new ways to treat illnesses both old and new.