Covid is America’s deadliest pandemic as U.S. fatalities near 1918 flu estimates
A woman and child walk through a field of white flags on the Mall near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on September 16, 2021.
AFP | AFP | Getty Images
Covid-19 is about to become the most deadly outbreak in recent American history, nearing the estimated U.S. fatalities from the 1918 influenza pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Johns Hopkins data shows that Covid-related deaths in the United States reached 675,000 as of Monday. This is on top of an increase at more than 1,900 daily fatalities. Another wave of new infection is currently sweeping the nation, thanks to the rapid-spreading Delta variant.
The 1918 flu – which came in three waves, occurring in the spring of 1918, the fall of 1918; and the winter and spring of 1919 – killed an estimated 675,000 Americans, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. The 1918 flu was the deadliest pandemic to hit America in modern history.
Howard Markel from the University of Michigan, who is a doctor and historian of medicine, said that “I believe we have now completed historical comparisons.” He said that it was time to look beyond 1918 and start looking forward to 2021.
“This is the pandemic I will be studying and teaching to the next generation of doctors and public-health students,” he said.
Markel and other medical experts agree that it is difficult to compare the raw numbers of pandemics side by side. However, this doesn’t take into account the many technological, medical and social advances made over the past century.
Health experts and statisticians agree that it is important to think about population when discussing outbreaks or natural disasters.
The U.S. population in 1918 was about a third that of the current one. There were 103 million Americans living in America before the advent of the 20th century. The U.S. has nearly 325 million inhabitants. This compares to the 1 in 500 Americans who died of Covid.
Experts say that 1918 viruses killed differently from Covid. There was an enormous movement of people across America and Europe during World War I. While the coronavirus can be especially severe for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the 1918 virus was unusual in that it killed many young adults.
Globally, the 1918 flu killed more people, an estimated 20 million to 50 million, according to the World Health Organization. Johns Hopkins data indicates that Covid has already claimed approximately 4.7 millions lives worldwide.
The 1918 flu vaccine was unavailable, which is a stark contrast to today. The CDC, or national health department, was not established. Although the Food and Drug Administration was established, it only had a small number of employees. Additionally, there were no antibiotics, intensive care units, ventilators or IV fluids.
Scientists had never seen viruses under microscopes. The technology was not available to them and they didn’t understand virology. This is because viruses can be seen under a microscope, and are more difficult than bacterial infections.
Paul Offit from the FDA, which advises on Covid vaccines said that “Clearly, we now have better advantages” and added that he was “frustrated”.
According to him, the U.S. has a worse situation than it did a year ago due to large numbers of unvaccinated people.
I can confirm that there are many children in hospital with high-risk conditions. The problem isn’t that they haven’t received their third dose. Offit is also the Director of Children’s Hospital Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center.
Markel acknowledged that progress has been made by the U.S., but said, “The reality is, we don’t have any historical precedents for where we are now.”