Mankind has not learned lessons in a hundred years
Having pounced on countries and continents with three destructive waves, the “Spaniard” hid in the spring of 1919 from the battlefield, taking almost a hundred million ruined souls. People with joy began to return to their usual everyday life, the economy revived, the cultural life came to life … The characteristic signs of the quarantine period quickly disappeared. However, many medical specialists did not share such a cloudless optimistic view of the future.
One of these pessimists, George A. Soper, prepared a warning text for the reputable science publication Science about possible recurrence of such global epidemics in the future. The magazine published this material in its March 1919 issue as an editorial entitled Pandemic Lessons.
Of course now, a century later, that journal has already become a bibliographic rarity. However, the editors of Science recently posted an article by Soper on the Internet. – And this re-publication is intended not for lovers of historical artifacts. Many paragraphs, if you do not know in advance when they were first printed, are read as if written on the malice of the present day – for you and me fighting the invasion of a destructive “cove”.
Here are some snippets of the article.
“The pandemic that has just swept across the Earth has no precedent. There were more deadly epidemics, but they were more geographically limited. There were almost equally widespread epidemics – but they were less deadly … The most surprising thing in this pandemic was the absolute unknownness surrounding it. It seemed that no one knew what this disease was, where it came from, how it appeared and how to stop it. And alarmed minds ask the question: will not another wave of IT come again.
The fact is that although the flu is one of the oldest epidemic diseases known to medicine, it is the least understood by us. Science, which with its patient and painstaking work has done a lot to nullify other “pestilences”, still remains powerless before him. As before … the factors predisposing to influenza and the conditions for the occurrence of complications are unclear …
On the way to preventing the epidemic there are three main obstacles.
Firstly, the indifference of society. People are not aware of the risk they are taking. A huge spread in the severity of a respiratory disease after infection confuses people and hides the danger. This infection can vary in its manifestations from the common cold to pneumonia. It begins as a catarrh of the upper respiratory tract or rhinitis, then it can suddenly develop into pharyngitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, bronchitis or pneumonia. Severity increases as the infection progresses to the lungs. Sometimes it seems that the infection begins in the chest, sometimes in the throat, sometimes in the head. She can stop where she started, or go through several phases. This is the story of a common cold: it is usually more unpleasant than dangerous. Most people recover without much treatment, and indeed no major intervention.
There is another group of diseases, more severe, more unusual, which is often confused at the initial stage with the first … Influenza belongs to this class. In this case, the symptoms may initially be identical with those of those who simply have a cold, and the true nature of the disease eludes until the patient shows obvious and alarming symptoms. But by this time, other people may already be infected.
The second factor that stands in the way of prevention is the peculiarities of the human body itself … Discharges from the nose and throat get into the air and pollute the hands, food, clothes and, in fact, … the entire environment of the infected person. This happens unconsciously, imperceptibly, no one suspects anything … Thus, we get a situation when we have to control those people who are already infected, but those who can transmit the disease can do little to protect themselves. At the same time, a “preventive burden” is unlikely to be easy for humans: it is not in our nature to enclose ourselves in tight isolation with a simple cold, presuming in advance that there is a chance that it will be a more dangerous infection.
Thirdly, the high contagiousness of respiratory infections exacerbates the difficulty of controlling them. The incubation period varies greatly … and the patient can become contagious even before he realizes that he is getting sick.
This list of obstacles for the prevention of the epidemic, it may be appropriate to end, noting that healthy people often carry the embryos of the disease on their hands, thereby unconsciously acting as a constant danger to themselves and pose a threat to others …
All attempts to exclude the flu from society seem to have failed. There is one and only one way to absolutely prevent this: complete quarantine, absolute isolation. It is necessary to isolate all those who are able to transmit the virus from all those who are able to become infected – or vice versa. This is very difficult, because, firstly, it is impossible to detect all virus carriers, and secondly, it is impossible to separate the immune from non-immune to the virus. Complete isolation is impossible neither for whole cities, nor for countries. This is possible only for small settlements and villages, and in such cases, sometimes such tactics brought success. However, such methods most likely delayed infection.
Almost everyone agrees that the flu and pneumonia are independent of each other diseases, and that the high mortality rate was due to a very noticeable decrease in the resistance of the pneumonia caused by the flu.
It is believed that the virus leaves the body through the nose or mouth, and enters through the mouth, nose or eyes, as befits the causative agent of a respiratory disease. The development of the disease has undoubtedly proved to be a complex biological phenomenon. A virus has appeared that is able to overcome the resistance of most of those people who have been exposed to it.
Among other things, the pandemic showed how quickly and widely respiratory infections can spread. It became clear what a colossal exchange of microbes takes place in the respiratory apparatus of people who live in cities, towns and villages. It is very disturbing to know how easily and often the bacterial products of a sick person enter the noses and mouths of other people, and these facts should not be hidden from people …
The great lesson of the pandemic is to draw general attention to the prevalence of respiratory diseases at normal times, to the indifference that they usually encounter and to our current inability to protect ourselves from them. They cannot be controlled through sanitary measures like typhoid, malaria, and many other diseases. They should be controlled by administrative methods, and through the implementation of appropriate self-defense measures.
Will there be another visit to a pandemic? No one can … answer this question …
The steps that should be taken to suppress the disease, if it breaks out again, appear as follows: caring for the level of health in general and combating respiratory diseases as a separate class. And if there are doubts about the effectiveness of measures due to lack of specificity, then you need to remember: for the public morale it is better to do something than nothing …
Well, we will give the following 12 rules that were prepared in September by the chief surgeon of the US Army and published in the form of an order of the Minister of War, who must be given the greatest possible publicity:
1. Avoid crowds – the flu is a crowd disease.
2. Suppress your coughing and sneezing – others do not need the microbes that you threw away.
3. … Develop a habit of breathing through the nose.
4. Remember the rule of three “H” – clean mouth, clean skin and clean clothes.
5. Try to be cool when walking and stay warm when riding and sleeping.
6. Open windows at home at night; in the office – when possible.
7. Food will win the war, if you give it a chance, help it by choosing the right food and chewing it thoroughly.
8. Your fate may be in your own hands: wash your hands before eating.
9. Do not allow the accumulation of digestive waste in the body – drink a glass or two of water, getting up in the morning.
10. Do not use a napkin, towel, spoon, fork, glass or cup of another person without washing them.
11. Avoid tight clothes, tight shoes, tight clothes, tight gloves – strive to make nature your ally, not a captive.
12. When the air is clean, breathe deeply … “
In Kronstadt, there is a monument to the famous Russian naval commander Admiral Makarov, on the pedestal of which a short but capacious phrase: “Remember the war” is stamped. It would probably be very correct in the days of our great-grandfathers-grandfathers to install another monument with a similar inscription-reminder: “Remember“ Spanish woman ”. Then, perhaps, we, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, would not have been at the beginning of the 21st century under the blow of the “heiress” of this terrible disease.