Spaniard pandemic: haven’t we learned anything in a century?

In these days, when the coronavirus pandemic remains the main information topic for the whole world, it's time to recall that the current disease invasion is far from the first disaster of this kind experienced by mankind not only throughout its history, but even over its modern period . We will not look into hoary antiquity with its pestilences like the plague and smallpox, which have mowed entire countries. If we talk about more or less modern realities for us, then the most terrible and devastating pandemic went around the planet in 1918-1920, remaining in the chronicles under the name of "Spaniard".

However, this virus had the most distant relation to the country on the Iberian Peninsula. And this is just one of the many myths, incidents and riddles associated with its mysterious appearance and even more mysterious disappearance. Let's try to figure out, if not all, then at least most of them. Moreover, it is worth starting to do it thoughtfully and in detail - and there are so many associations with today's events that they take your breath away ...

What the epidemic begins with ...

First of all, starting a conversation about an epidemic that took 25 to 50 million people their lives in less than two years (although some researchers stubbornly insist on a figure of 100 million), we must honestly admit: from where and how it came about is not known for certain to this day. First, let's deal with the common name. As already mentioned, the then flu can be called “Spanish” with approximately the same basis as COVID-2019, for example, “Italian”. The solution to this absurdity lies in a very simple fact: the first stage of the spread of the infection throughout the world came at exactly the time when the First World War was still in full swing. In the vast majority of countries where the disease was rampant, any mention of it from the media or texts of public speaking was immediately extinct with the iron hand of military censors - there is nothing to sow panic and dissolve snot! And only in Spain, which did not take part in the hostilities, and, accordingly, did not introduce the "draconian" laws of wartime, information about the nightmarish nature of the disease and its terrifying extent, as they say, burst out. In fact, the "Spaniard" has splashed out into the world (well, we shall call it that already, the familiar designation) from the United States. Or rather, from the field camp of the American army, which was preparing recruits to be sent to the battlefields of the European theater of operations. The "canonical" version of the "null patient" is as follows: on March 11, 1918, Private Albert Gitchell appeared in the infirmary of the Kansas military camp Fort Riley and asked for "something from the common cold", apparently, the soldier really did a terrible slip through , the doctors decided - he had a chill, his temperature “went off scale”, and in addition, his throat hurt like hell.

All would be fine, but after about a quarter of an hour the next soldier knocked on the door with a red cross - with exactly the same symptoms. Then two more. And yet ... In the very near future, not a single bed was left in the infirmary, in the first week with an incomprehensible sore five thousand people fell. It is not known for certain whether Gitchell played a role here either as a junior cook, or simply as a kitchen worker - in a word. had the most direct relation to the catering department. In the future, the disease spread simply at a fantastic rate (approximately 90% of infections in contact with the infected), no matter who was ill, such as a cook, groom or king. Looking ahead a bit, I’ll make a reservation: Gitchell, who is considered a “zero patient,” recovered and lived a very long life. Lucky ... We will return, however, to the epidemic. What do you think have done senior officials from the US Army? Quarantined the camp? Canceled troop transfer? Units of the expeditionary force began to “wool” in search of new sick and potential carriers of the virus? Yes, hell with two! You never know - well, a certain amount of "cannon fodder" got sick. Yes, they always get sick, these stunned! The simulators are bloody! Everyone under arms - and in service! And then - on the steamers and finish off the damned Fritz, while you can. Let me remind you - in 1918 Brest Peace was already concluded, Russia, on the blood and bones of which the Entente spent most of the First World War, came out of this bloody meat grinder, bogged down, however, in its own Civil War. In order not to lose, the United States was forced to send its units to the Old World to help the British and French. They set off - bringing Europe the worst epidemic in its history.

Where did it come from ?!

Nevertheless, the story of Fort Riley in no way brings final clarity to the question of the primary source of the virus and its origin. We cannot but recall that in 1918, when the infection began to mow down the Entente’s troops, which is called platoon, porotny and battalion, the first version was: “Germans, bastards!” Berlin was immediately accused of using “biological weapons”: someone spoke of “gas sprayed from planes,” someone claimed that the insidious “sausages” threw “poisoned canned food” to the enemies. It even came to completely wild versions, like the Teutonic fish in the English Channel, with which, they say, "it all started." In turn, the German side refuted these fabrications and argued that the German nation is by no means a people of idiots who poisoned themselves and the rest of Europe in addition to military opponents. Moreover, General Erich Ludendorff, who “steered” the war machine of the then Reich since 1916, subsequently repeatedly claimed that it was precisely the damned “Spaniard” who did not give him and his brave warriors the victory over Germany’s enemies, and only she . One way or another, but the "German version", as completely delusional and untenable, was noted back in the 30s of the last century. Today, two of the most justified versions of the “genealogy” of the virus that caused the epidemic are considered to be two: “Chinese” and “American”. Doesn’t resemble anything? Supporters of the first claim that the virus that generated the “Spanish girl” ended up in the Old World together with the Chinese “coolies” that the British carried in tens of thousands to carry out the most difficult and dirty work in the rear of the Entente. Allegedly, in the Celestial Empire cases of the disease, with one-to-one symptoms repeating the “Spanish girl”, were noted as early as 1917, if not earlier. It began with the rear, reached the front ... This version, however, contradicts the story of Fort Riley and therefore causes doubts.

On the other hand, there were enough Chinese “labor reserves” in the USA, and they were probably in the Kansas pandemic, which became the starting point. However, there is greater confidence in the claims of scientists who believe that subsequently killing millions of people around the world, the flu has for some time already been “walking” in the American “outback”, having its main poultry and livestock. After tasting the meat of infected animals, people became ill. And this perfectly explains the moment that the first sick person came to the infirmary from the kitchen! This hypothesis, by the way, has found its fullest confirmation in our days. In 1997, virologists succeeded in obtaining a strain of "Spanish woman", one might say - brand new, "straight away." The material for the study was a woman who died of influenza in 1918 and was buried in the permafrost of Alaska. Her remains retained the infection in full suitability for research. It was not so fast to fully decrypt the virus genome. And you know whose he turned out to be the “closest relative” ?! Our old, unkind acquaintance A / H1N1, which causes epidemics of "atypical" flu, is already in our days. By the way, there is evidence that a practitioner in the Kansas County Haskell, located just next to the ill-fated military camp, Dr. Loring Miner, shortly before the outbreak, contacted the local Citizens Health Services (PHS) with a warning that he was faced with a dangerous disease that completely coincided in symptoms with the "Spanish". Officials from medicine simply kicked off his message: here there is a war, you see, mobilization, and he climbs with some kind of sneezes! By August 1918, the number of deaths from new flu in the United States approached 3 thousand, by September exceeded 12 thousand ...

Horrors and mysteries of the "Spanish"

Mortality from this disease in different cases reached 10%, or even all 20% of those infected. In some places, whole small settlements died out, and in the cities there was not a single healthy doctor left. The horrors of the First World War, which cost mankind 17 million lives, faded before the nightmares of the “Spaniard”. In military units, it was already said that it was rampant with particular strength, and therefore not only the morgues of hospitals, but the whole barracks, clogged with piles of dead bodies in uniforms, became a normal picture. For transporting the dead, special trains had to be organized, mass graves were dug with the help of steam excavators - individual burial became a luxury that only the “cream of society” could afford. Influenza tormented the population of the Earth - it seemed to be retreating, then it was rolling in a new wave, even more deadly than the previous one. Europe suffered enormously: in the Balkan countries, mortality reached 3% of the population, in Spain, Italy, and Portugal, it ranged from one and a half to more than two percent of all residents. However, the less developed countries of the world, which at that time were colonies of "enlightened Europe," had to be much more saltier. The infection brought there by the “white gentlemen” mercilessly slaughtered 7% of the Indians, every tenth Zimbabwean, every fifth resident of Samoa and Zambia. Australia held out for the longest time, fenced off from the world by ocean waves, but then "demobilization" poured into the country from the fronts of the First World War - and away we go ... However, the continent "easily escaped" - 12 thousand inhabitants died there. According to various estimates, in the years 1918-1920, about a third of the world's population (at least 550 million people) suffered from the “Spanish woman”, from 3% to 5% of the world's inhabitants died.

The nightmarish difference of the “Spanish woman” from other ailments known to doctors at that time was that she killed, as a rule, not the weakest patients (children, old people with chronic diseases), namely young and strong patients! As a rule, 20-40 year old young men. At the same time, the clinical symptoms of a severe stage of the disease brought to a head not the faint of the then doctors. Patients had nosebleeds of such force that blood spurted against the walls and ceiling! Their faces turned blue, like the hanged, a terrible rash covered their body. People “burned” from this disease often literally in three days ... Why was this so? The answer was found only in our days. According to virologists, the most terrible feature of the virus was that it caused hypercytokinemia, or “cytokine storm” in patients. Translated from medical to human, this means that the flu somehow forced the body's immune system to work, not 100%, but 300%, or even a thousand! As a result, there was literally self-destruction of the human body from the inside, and, of course, the healthier the person was before being infected by the vile "Spaniard", the faster he died, "picking up" it. The disease struck the respiratory organs most severely, hence the cyanosis, as if from suffocation. Without any “how” - the patients simply suffocated. However, we understand all this now, relying on the medical knowledge of recent decades. In the first half of the twentieth century, the epidemic that struck the world seemed the Apocalypse, the end of the World, God's punishment, with no end and limit. However, who said that she was not to her ?!

From nowhere to nowhere

In general, there is nothing to say about how the pandemic was defeated. No, wherever possible, severe quarantine measures were introduced, mass events were canceled, and public transport was not allowed without gauze bandages and masks, which became an indispensable “toilet” of even the most fashionable women and dandies ... People, like today, They refused to shake hands, and posters forbidding to spit hung in the most prominent places. Nevertheless, the Spaniard, who retreated in the summer of 1918, dealt a new blow in the fall, collecting a record number of victims. Then, having calmed down, she returned exactly one year after the appearance - in March 1919. And again, the summer "break" - and another attack. And in 1920, the "Spaniard" did not even go into another recession - it simply disappeared. As if it had never been on Earth. Why - no one can say with absolute accuracy. The only intelligible explanation from scientists: "the virus mutated, in fact, self-destructing." The remaining versions lie far beyond the scope of science, rather referring to mysticism or attempts to interpret God's providence. Gone, and all ... The world sighed with relief. Separately, it is worth mentioning some methods of "treatment" of this flu, the fear of which sometimes led people to the complete loss of common sense, not only patients, but also doctors. Some of them prescribed 30 grams of aspirin per day to patients! In this case, the allowable daily dose of this substance, as has long been proven, is not more than 4 grams. How many people gave their souls to God from such "therapy" is not known for certain, but there have been fatal cases. They tried to “vaccinate” the disease by concocting a terrible mixture of blood and mucous secretions of the sick. This muck was injected into the hand, which, as you might guess, caused infection, and did not give immunity to the “Spanish woman”. However, all this fades before the "prevention", which some "very smart" soldiers at the front arranged for themselves. In order to protect themselves from obesity, they inhaled chlorine-based war gases! Literally one or two breaths, while literally burning out the mucosa of your own respiratory tract.

Spaniard reached out to our country. The territory of present-day Ukraine suffered the most from it - in Kiev almost the entire population of 700 thousand suffered from this flu, and the mortality rate was 1.5%. Over time, by the end of the fall of 1918, it reached Central Russia. It was from the “Spaniard” that the chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, Yakov Sverdlov, who had infected her during a trip to Kharkov, died. However, in the bloody horror of the Great Troubles of that time - the Civil War, intervention, devastation and famine, the epidemics of typhoid fever and typhus, cholera, "Spaniard" did not seem completely outstanding. Well, a new misfortune - one more, one less ... The Russian people took it quite stoically, even if this stoicism was forced. They survived - like, incidentally, all the other troubles and sorrows of that terrible time.

Truly, if History teaches us something, it’s only that it doesn’t teach anything ... Less than three decades have passed since the cannonade of the First World War sounded, and humanity has already unleashed the Second, a hundred times more cruel and destructive. It would seem that, having felt the complete horror of the total pandemic of influenza, people would have to create some global mechanisms to deal with such a disaster. So what? Nothing ... Flu pandemics attacked humanity with alarming regularity in the 50s, 60s, 70s of the last century. In the present century, this disease increasingly takes on some bizarre, “atypical” forms ”in the form of“ bird ”,“ pig ”and other strains. As mentioned above, they have been known about them since the time of the “Spanish woman”. However, the coronavirus was worth a glimpse and it turned out that in each country the colossal hospitals, preserved until “X hour”, designed to deal with global disasters, did not stand, apparently, in the safes of the top leaders of the military and civilian departments were the packages with the stamp: “Secret! Print out in the event of a pandemic. ” Each time, faced with a new ailment that does not recognize borders, mankind, for the most part, behaves frivolously and sluggishly, stepping on all the same "rake". That's just the cuttings from them are getting thicker and thicker ... Each time, instead of imposing cruel quarantines and completely mobilizing all possible and impossible resources to confront the pandemic, people wonder: “maybe it will cost.” But it does not cost. One can only hope that the current COVID-2019 epidemic in terms of lethality does not reach its "Spanish" predecessor at times. And also the fact that at least some conclusions from century-old history were nevertheless made.
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  • Photos used: National Museum of Health and Medicine /
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  1. steelmaker Offline steelmaker
    steelmaker 21 March 2020 09: 32
    Unfortunately, flu is the most common disease on Earth. And treat a sore throat should be taught from childhood. But each has its own methods. I have been treated with aspirin for more than 50 years. For me it's like a vitamin. I can just take a pill a day, even if I feel tired. The only rule is not to drink on an empty stomach. First, at least eat a cookie. But I know - if it doesn’t help, it means something serious. So - SAVE YOURSELF !!
    1. Arkharov Offline Arkharov
      Arkharov (Grigory Arkharov) 22 March 2020 17: 51
      The best and surest way to ruin your stomach is to drink at least TromboAss, or Cardiomagnyl.
  2. BMP-2 Offline BMP-2
    BMP-2 (Vladimir V.) 21 March 2020 12: 02
    Yes, a lot of strange things with this flu, and especially with the reaction to it. It is surprising that in those areas of China where quarantine was introduced, mortality among INFECTED people is more than an order of magnitude higher than mortality in those areas where quarantine was not introduced. That is, the situation is like in that joke:

    Will we treat or let him live?

  3. Arkharov Offline Arkharov
    Arkharov (Grigory Arkharov) 22 March 2020 17: 53
    And then, see, the Americans tried. Heard, specially sprayed with airships.
  4. Regis Offline Regis
    Regis (Sergey Kopan) 23 March 2020 17: 26
    We managed to unlearn it ..... In the USSR, there were the most serious developments in the world and experience in combating various epidemics, and there were corresponding structures. Russia has partially lost all this, thanks to reformers, general people and reformers to businessmen - experience, people and structures.
  5. Nikolay Malyugin (Nikolai Malyugin) 28 March 2020 07: 23
    If the USSR were now, everything would be different. Then in the first place was sanitary prevention. Contemporaries would have been wonderful if they had not been allowed to bring a bouquet of flowers from abroad. And in the canteens and in the shops they were woolly for violation of sanitary norms. Citizens were not given recommendations. But everything was aimed at those who serve these citizens.