Coronavirus Will Radically Alter the U.S.Breaking News
tags: public health, epidemics, coronavirus
As America enters this utterly unfamiliar territory, some experts have turned to history for glimpses of what to expect in the months ahead.
Initially leery of alarming the public, they have increasingly compared this pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu, the deadliest in modern history. It infected roughly a third of the world’s population and killed at least 50 million people, including at least 675,000 in the United States.
Like the hilly bumps experts foresee in coming months, the 1918 pandemic hit America in three waves — a mild one that spring, the deadliest wave in fall and a final one that winter.
With each wave came a cycle of denial, devastation, community response finally kicking into overdrive — always followed by finger-pointing and blame among leaders and the public.
“Every outbreak is different,” said medical anthropologist Monica Schoch-Spana, who spent months digging through archives to study how Spanish flu played out in Baltimore.
Like coronavirus is likely to do, the 1918 flu overwhelmed hospitals. Unable to get help, desperate families waited outside to beg and try to bribe doctors for treatment. In a three-week period, 2,000 died in Baltimore alone. Mortuaries ran out of caskets. When the bodies finally reached cemeteries, the gravediggers were so ill, no one could bury the dead.
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