As part of my work for NYU’s School of Global Public Health, I have been compiling and comparing key metrics for the most severe global pandemics that occurred in the past 100 years.
I am comparing COVID-19 metrics to seasonal influenza, 1918 Spanish flu, 1957 Asian flu, 1968 Hong Kong flu, and 2009-10 H1N1. There are many similarities and differences that can be observed. Aside from the astonishing speed of vaccine development to combat COVID-19, there are three interesting findings.
Non-medical interventions, such as isolation, school closures, testing, face masks, and contact tracing, and subsequent compliance are key to controlling any respiratory transmitted disease. All of the global pandemics that occurred within the last 100 years had been an influenza virus, with the exception of SARS-CoV-2. From this data, one can see that regardless of which variation of influenza or respiratory virus, the control measures are very similar.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the first time that specific medical treatments, in addition to vaccines, have been developed, specifically bamlanivimab (antibody treatment) and convalescent plasma therapy, both of which help to control severe cases of COVID-19.
As was to be expected by looking at the course of previous pandemics, the coronavirus is now in the middle of its second wave and subsequent waves are likely, should no mitigating efforts like large-scale vaccinations occur. In the past, four to five waves were recorded in the 1918 Spanish Flu, 1957 Asian Flu, and the 1968 Hong Kong Flu.
Please click here to go to my overview:
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