The COVID pandemic has similarities to the Spanish flu – 100 Mile House Free Press
Since March 2020, we have been living under the shadow of COVID-19. We have more information and media coverage than we need. We often feel like the world is a surreal place, with new worries. But this is not the case.
In the fall of 1918, as World War I drew to a close, the world was suddenly attacked by a far more dangerous enemy. The enemy was the Spanish flu. Spain was the first country, in May 1918, to report the presence of a deadly virus. In fact, the virus had broken out in Canton, China, as early as February. By April it was spreading across Europe and Britain.
Spanish influenza arrived in Canada aboard personnel carriers in the summer of 1918. By September, it had traveled west and to distant outposts in the Maritimes aboard supply ships. Medical facilities everywhere were completely overwhelmed. Across the country, rural areas have been particularly affected. Often there were no medical professionals within a hundred miles. People did what they could for their families and neighbors, using what little medical knowledge they had.
The impact of the flu on small towns like Drumheller has been drastic. With the loss of his doctor, the city is quarantined. The school has been transformed into a temporary hospital. A young teacher with limited nursing experience soon found herself caring for 20 coal miners. After a month, she and another girl had over 100 patients.
In response to the rapid wave, most provinces have closed all public places, from schools to social gatherings. Hours of operation were restricted, and retired and unemployed teachers and civil servants were recruited to help the sick. Aid was particularly slow to reach the north, where Provincial Police and RCMP were dispatched to help treat the sick, hunt and fish for food, and tend the sled dogs.
The vaccines tried until 1918-19 against the disease were not successful, as the virus itself was not identified until 1933. In the meantime, Canadians tried home remedies. Some people would tie bags of camphor or salted herring around their necks. Some have sprinkled sulfur on their shoes to keep germs away. Cures of cinnamon, bran, garlic and onion have been tried. Mustard plasters, herbal poultices, alcohol shots have been tried. Alcohol was a tricky option. In 1917, Canada adopted prohibition as a measure of war. The outbreak has prompted calls for its repeal “for medical purposes only.”
Well-known companies have used the flu to increase their sales. CCM advertisements presented bicycles as a healthy alternative to “overcrowded trams with their danger of contagion”. Patented drugs such as Dr Chase’s Menthol Bag, Flaxseed and Turpentine Syrup, and Riga Purgative Waters have been advertised in Maclean’s and the Canadian Home Journal. Horlick’s malted milk and petroleum jelly have been promoted as anti-flu measures.
Masks were by far the most popular defense against flu germs. Each household received a leaflet explaining how to make a mask. An 8 × 16 inch piece of gauze had to be folded and a rope about 10 inches long was to be tied at each corner. Many old photos show a variety of people wearing masks, such as bank clerks, women walking past shops, Winnipeg Free Press newspaper carriers, three farmers in a prairie field. Alberta was one of the first provinces to pass mask law. Individual cities have passed bylaws providing fines of $ 1 to $ 50 for violations.
The Spanish flu continued to spread across the country in three waves. It gradually died out in the mid-1920s. It had struck down a quarter of Canada’s eight million people and made 50,000. The personal cost was very high with the loss of loved ones and loved ones. employees. Local relief costs had skyrocketed and businesses had faltered.
In the outbreak’s first year, each province had tried to deal with its own medical and financial issues but had been left without a plan for such a catastrophe. Federal politicians realized that there had to be a health plan for the whole country. In the fall of 1919, a Federal Ministry of Health was created.
We have a pandemic and there are a lot of similarities. But we have a global commitment to get us through this. Of course, there are conflicting theories and disagreements, but positive thoughts and caring for others are what we do best. Be kind, be calm, be careful.
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