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Opinion >  Letters

Lessons from 1918

The facts in this editorial are from a November 2017 Smithsonian Magazine article which recounts the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic. The pandemic lasted just 15 months, but it was the deadliest outbreak in human history. It killed 675,000 people in the USA and between 50 to 100 million worldwide. In the spring of 1918, there were enormous numbers of people infected, but mortality rates were similar to seasonal flu. By July, leaders thought the pandemic was ending, but the second deadly wave began in August.

As the second deadly wave began with a newly mutated virus, one physician wrote: “Patients start with what appears as ordinary influenza, but it develops into the most vicious type of pneumonia ever seen. Horrific symptoms included cyanosis, foamy blood coughed up from the lungs, and bleeding from the nose, ears, and even the eyes. It is only a matter of hours until death comes.” 195,000 Americans died in October 1918.

Fast forward to the COVID fourth wave in 2021. With this virus replicating and mutating, there is always the possibility that a COVID mutation could be as deadly as the 1918 influenza mutation. It is absolutely deplorable that 629,000 USA citizens have died from COVID. And we could easily reach the 675,000 deaths that occurred in 1918. The unvaccinated need to start caring for their country and their fellow citizens. Just get vaccinated, so we can reach herd immunity and end this devastating pandemic.

Carol Petersen


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