Let's take a look at previous pandemics

Graham Charles Lear
7 min readMar 13, 2020

1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus)We know it as the Spanish Flu.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is no universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918–1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.

Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20–40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20–40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.

1957–1958 Pandemic (H2N2 virus) We know it as “Asian Flu.

In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering a pandemic (“Asian Flu”). This H2N2 virus was comprised of three different genes from an H2N2 virus that originated from an avian influenza A virus, including the H2 hemagglutinin and the N2 neuraminidase genes. It was first reported in Singapore in February 1957, Hong Kong in April 1957, and in coastal cities in the United States in summer 1957. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.

1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus)

The 1968 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H3N2) virus comprised of two genes from an avian influenza A virus, including a new H3 hemagglutinin, but also contained the N2 neuraminidase from the 1957 H2N2 virus. It was first noted in the United States in September 1968. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States. Most excess deaths were in people 65 years and older. The H3N2 virus continues to circulate worldwide as a seasonal influenza A virus. Seasonal H3N2 viruses, which are associated with severe illness in older people, undergo regular antigenic drift.

2009 H1N1 Pandemic (H1N1pdm09 virus) We know it as Swine Flu

In the spring of 2009, a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus emerged. It was detected first in the United States and spread quickly across the United States and the world. This new H1N1 virus contained a unique combination of influenza genes not previously identified in animals or people. This virus was designated as influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 virus. Ten years later work continues to better understand influenza, prevent disease, and prepare for the next pandemic.

The (H1N1)pdm09 virus was very different from H1N1 viruses that were circulating at the time of the pandemic. Few young people had any existing immunity (as detected by antibody response) to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus, but nearly one-third of people over 60 years old had antibodies against this virus, likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives. Since the (H1N1)pdm09 virus was very different from circulating H1N1 viruses, vaccination with seasonal flu vaccines offered little cross-protection against (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection. While a monovalent (H1N1)pdm09 vaccine was produced, it was not available in large quantities until late November — after the peak of illness during the second wave had come and gone in the United States. From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3–89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086–402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868–18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.

Additionally, CDC estimated that 151,700–575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.** Globally, 80 per cent of (H1N1)pdm09 virus-related deaths were estimated to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age. This differs greatly from typical seasonal influenza epidemics, during which about 70 per cent to 90 per cent of deaths are estimated to occur in people 65 years and older.

Though the 2009 flu pandemic primarily affected children and young and middle-aged adults, the impact of the (H1N1)pdm09 virus on the global population during the first year was less severe than that of previous pandemics. Estimates of pandemic influenza mortality ranged from 0.03 per cent of the world’s population during the 1968 H3N2 pandemic to 1 per cent to 3 per cent of the world’s population during the 1918 H1N1 pandemic. It is estimated that 0.001 per cent to 0.007 per cent of the world’s population died of respiratory complications associated with (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first 12 months the virus circulated.

The United States mounted a complex, multi-faceted and long-term response to the pandemic, summarized in The 2009 H1N1 Pandemic: Summary Highlights, April 2009-April 2010. On August 10, 2010, WHO declared an end to the global 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. However, (H1N1)pdm09 virus continues to circulate as a seasonal flu virus, and cause illness, hospitalization, and deaths worldwide every year.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and CDC say will provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.

CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern external icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19. On March 11, 2020, WHO publicly external icon characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Source and Spread of the Virus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, as do some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed. Learn what is known about the spread of this newly emerged coronaviruses.

Severity

The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report external icon out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.

Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

COVID-19 Now a Pandemic

A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide and community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries. On March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO)external icon.

This is the first pandemic known to be caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus. In the past century, there have been four pandemics caused by the emergence of novel influenza viruses. As a result, most research and guidance around pandemics is specific to influenza, but the same premises can be applied to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemics of respiratory disease follow a certain progression outlined in a “Pandemic Intervals Framework.” Pandemics begin with an investigation phase, followed by recognition, initiation, and acceleration phases. The peak of illnesses occurs at the end of the acceleration phase, which is followed by a deceleration phase, during which there is a decrease in illnesses. Different countries can be in different phases of the pandemic at any point in time and different parts of the same country can also be in different phases of a pandemic.

There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

(Sources Centre Disease Control And Prevention)

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.