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Let’s stay home: We have no excuse, it is not 1918

Readers Lounge - By Lolita Bunde
A temporary hospital in Camp Funston, Kansas, during the 1918–19 influenza pandemic (Photo: Courtesy)

Spanish influenza broke out in 1918 and it still stands as one of the most severe pandemics to ever hit mankind in history. The Spanish flu was caused by the H1N1 virus and it claimed an approximated 17 to 50 million lives, about 3% of the world’s total population.

The Spanish flu lasted almost a year and those who had been infected either died or developed immunity. Sadly during those days, technology hadn’t penetrated the ends of the world and people barely knew what they were up against or how to spread word of a vaccine or precaution measures. It was not until 1940, twenty two years later that the name and cause of the flu was truly known.

History has a way of repeating itself. A hundred years later, we are plagued by COVID-19, a pandemic that has so far infected approximately 1.9 million people worldwide and claimed over 120,000 lives. Unlike the 1918 flu, we are lucky that the world has made technological milestones and people are no longer in the dark about such developments.

In contrast to the Spanish flu, when coronavirus broke out in Wuhan China last year December, from the word go, scientists had suspected it was a virus. Within two weeks, they had identified it as a coronavirus and discovered that the most likely animal hosts were bats.

Almost instantly, not only was the whole world aware of the novel virus that had plagued China but also where the virus had originated from and how it was being spread. Countries around the world were prepared psychologically and technically incase the virus was to cross borders, and it did.

Coronavirus has had some intense effects on us, from sanitizing our hands almost a hundred times a day, to putting on masks, maintaining social distance, and the most challenging, staying home 24/7. Being confined to the house may seem like an easy thing to do but as it turns out, it is quite a task.

Kenyan hawker selling homemade face masks (Photo: Elvis Ogina)

In 1918, although the same regulations might have been put in place, you dare not compare the modernized hospitals we have now; the advanced intensive-care units; and trained medical specialists who have upped their response rate to novel diseases and emergencies over the years. To paint a vivid picture of the difference, in 1918, antibiotics had not even been developed yet.

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While the novel coronavirus flu is as deadly as the Spanish, it is important to mention that despite both being respiratory diseases, the greatest difference is that COVID-19 mainly affects the elderly while the Spanish flu mainly affected the younger generation.

Thanks to the reef knowledge on the internet, we understand the need to isolate and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Availability of knowledge on the virus has made it possible for people to respond fast and keep up with regulations put in place to stop the spread of the virus. Thank goodness to education as a whole, people are swiftly adapting to the changes around them however adverse they may be.

All thanks to the enhancement of technology, our children, and their children, will have multiple mediums and documentation of the pandemic that plagued the world in 2020. For us, all we got to know about the Spanish flu was mainly in written material, other than in mentions here and there in movies and documentaries.

In comparison to Spanish flu, we can bear the brunt of staying home and managing to get work done. Thanks to the internet, the world is now a small village, we can still communicate with our dear ones from all over the world, and encourage one another during this pandemic.

A family using gadgets (Shutterstock)

The greatest factor playing against us and this pandemic is fear. Many people fear dying, due to COVID-19 or otherwise. Avoid exposing yourself and you are as good as safe.

Furthermore, to curb boredom and pass time you can stream movies online, play video games and have I mentioned the ease of checking up on your family and friends at the click of a button?

Applications are being developed by the minute to keep the masses entertained and engaged. In Kenya, The president even presented musicians and artists with Sh200 million in royalties to continue entertaining Kenyans while they stay at home.

As a medium, the internet provides easy flow of information that is both timeless and limitless. At the click of a button, you can get to know everything about anything without breaking a sweat. At the moment, the internet is playing a huge part in keeping us updated and informed on the latest news regarding COVID-19.

Considering the continuous changes and discoveries in the medical field, it is good to be informed about the advancements at all times. However, the information you consume may also likely drive you to paranoia. Various media platforms have their unique ways of breaking news. Depending on how the news hits you, it might influence the way you choose to think of the situation without necessarily relying on the internet.

An advanced operating room with lots of equipment (Shutterstock)

Now picture a world with minimal radio communication, medical practitioners are almost nonexistent, antibiotics and ventilators are a pipe dream. You are on quarantine probably on lockdown with no sure bet of what the flu is nor how it is spread. Life is dark. Would you survive the pandemic?

I bet you now see the importance of isolating. As boring as staying at home may be, we are all aware of the purpose we are playing in this whole equation. By following the regulations put in place, we are helping flatten the curve and stop coronavirus from spreading. Videos have been going viral of doctors and nurses pleading with masses to stay at home. Confining yourself to the house is the least you get to do to make their work easy.

Doctors and nurses are out there sacrificing their lives daily to save humankind. Honestly, our medical practitioners are not being given enough credit for all the donkey work they are doing. In some of the photos and videos circulating on the internet, you can vividly see how exhausted the medics are, most have not slept in days. All this, and more, in exchange for us to stay home.

Coronavirus may be the current problem we have to deal with now, but silently poverty and joblessness is creeping in. Most businesses have been closed and employees sent on unpaid leaves and as it stands no one knows to what length and for how long coronavirus might continue wreaking havoc. Indeed the economy is crashing. Nonetheless, it only takes time to revive an economy. Lives lost can never be recovered. Stay safe, stay at home.

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