We’re all in this together! As promoters of traditional skills, we tend to view history as a resource. Are there lessons from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 that are useful to us today? Perhaps the most striking similarity is that ability to control the spread of the disease involved isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, the use of disinfectants and limitations to public gatherings (cdc.gov). As is true today, there were no vaccines and much about the disease was not understood. As more was learned, there were public education efforts to help people understand the effects of sneezing and coughing in public places and the need to stop spitting (yet again, your mother was right). Schools were closed and recommendations were made about staggering store and factory hours to reduce contact between people.

Photo Credit: cdc.gov

While World War I dominated the news, often it was health care workers who were in harm’s way as they cared for the sick. What we don’t have today is the rampant malnutrition and stresses of combat due to a world war, and we have the advantage of tremendous medical advances, including antibiotics. Then as now, it is taking care of your neighbor and your family members by following the somewhat inconvenient guidelines that made, and make, the difference in slowing the spread of the disease. While the virus and its progression are new and different than in 1918, our support of health care workers and our support of each other as scientists work to develop a vaccine are critical.

Photo Credit: newsroom.uw.edu
During the Spanish Flu pandemic the US was the leader in studying the disease and developing solutions, and we collaboratively shared information with other nations as the world worked to effectively respond to the disease. Today our public health professionals have the potential advantage of learning from other nations whose progression is ahead of ours. But at home, in our own neighborhoods and work, our individual efforts to stay calm and positive, to follow public health guidelines and to support each other, are what makes the difference. We can’t say when the stresses of the pandemic will resolve, but history shows us that working together and supporting each other will help us all achieve a better future.

Photo Credit: Lance Grandahl on Unpslash.com