I suspect that when humanity is finally wiped off the face of the earth it won’t be under a mushroom cloud but rather the result of a virus that becomes a pandemic. There is no need to lose sleep yet over the spread of coronavirus, but it is time to start paying attention.
The short hairs on my neck stood up with the sharp rises in infection rates in countries outside of China and into the far east and Europe. Like yourself I had a “it doesn’t have anything to do with me” attitude until I saw the stock markets of the world showing flu symptoms. In February the Dow dropped five per cent from its earlier record high. The impact of coronavirus is real and already global.
The situation in Italy was particularly disturbing this week because medical authorities couldn’t find where it started in that country; the so-called “patient zero.” As of this hour the total number of infections is approaching 100,000 worldwide with the number of dead over 3,000. Most of the cases are within China but it is spreading and quickly. There are no cases in Newfoundland and in Canada less than a dozen confirmed cases so far. COVID-19, which is the correct name for coronavirus, is starting to worry people because an effective vaccine is still at least a year away.
Now in Newfoundland we are not new to pandemics which is where COVID-19 is heading. We know well the H1N1 virus of 2009. The so-called swine flu killed nearly half a million people around the world before it faded. In Canada over 400 people died. Coronavirus is already outstripping the swine flu, but it is under the radar because it isn’t a North American issue YET.
Spanish flu of 1918
Consider now for a moment the so-called Spanish flu of 1918. It was also a form of H1N1, and it killed 500 million people! That was about 1/3 of the world’s population. It was helped on by war where soldiers in incredibly close contact were an easy breeding ground for disease. Understand that the 1918 H1N1 flu wasn’t confined to Europe or the far east. There was a special place for Newfoundland and Labrador because as a sea-faring nation there was lots of travel here by ship.
In September 1918 the Spanish flu arrived in Newfoundland when a vessel with three infected crew members docked in St. John’s. Over the next number of weeks, the Spanish flu spread to the Burin Peninsula and to Labrador. Within six months it killed nearly 600 people. Most of the dead were in Labrador where medical services were poor.
If all this sounds grim take heart in this. The coronavirus has spread around the world but in China, infection rates are leveling out and the world knows there is a serious problem. There is still hope that we may be okay this time, but, as February ticks over into March, it is just that … a hope.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]
*The following was printed in our March 8-14, 2020 issue