2020 Vs. 1918: How Similar is the World Handling Pandemic?

headline announces broad closures during 1918 flu pandemic.
Photo credit USA Today Images
By WBEN

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) While we're dealing with the first major pandemic of our lifetimes with the coronavirus outbreak, this certainly isn't the first public health calamity to stirke Buffalo and New York. 

Before we dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, millions around the world were dealing the flu pandemic of 1918. And an expert from the State University of New York at Buffalo says there are some similiarties in how authorities tried to combat the spread of the diseases.

“When you think about 1918, the challenges that they faced during that time were just enormous. They had not yet identified the pathogen that caused influenza,” she says. “They didn’t even know they were dealing with a virus. And all of this was happening at the same time that medical personnel were deployed for World War I, so they also had a shortage of medical personnel.

“The list of the challenges they were facing in 1918 goes on and on, and yet Buffalo came out of it. The country came out of it — we survived. Yes, there was a tremendous loss of life, but everyone came together and persisted.”

“Because there is no vaccine yet, what we’re really focused on is non-pharmaceutical interventions. This means we’re taking actions at the individual and community level, like social distancing, to decrease the spread of communicable disease,” Zorich.

However, “Today, we have more knowledge, we have more experience, we have more technology, and we have a better public health infrastructure,” she adds. “If we put these strengths to work, and if everyone does their part, we’re going to come out of this just like we came out of the 1918 pandemic, with hopefully many fewer lives lost.”