September 20, 2021 – 22:00
The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in the United States is now equal to the number of Americans who lost their lives to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, or about 675,000. Like the worldwide catastrophe of a century ago, the coronavirus can never be completely eradicated.
Scientists hope the coronavirus will turn into a mild seasonal flu with the strengthening of human immunity through vaccination and recurrent infections. But it will take time.
“Hopefully this will be done as a case of cooling off, but there is no guarantee of that,” says Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario, according to which, it could happen after a few years.
Already the pandemic continues to have a major impact on the United States and the rest of the world.
The increase in new infections caused by the delta variant may have peaked, but the death toll continues to average over 1,900 a day, the highest level since early March. According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, as of Monday morning the total death toll from Covid-19 in the United States had reached close to 674,000, but the real number is thought to be higher.
According to a well-known forecast model, winter could bring a new increase in cases, though it will be less deadly than last year. The University of Washington model predicts the deaths of about 100,000 more Americans from COVID-19 by Jan. 1, bringing to 776,000 the total death toll from Covid-19 in the United States.
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 caused the deaths of some 675,000 Americans when the United States had a population three times smaller than it is today. About 50 million people globally died of the Spanish flu. Whereas, Covid-19 has caused the death of 4.6 million people globally.
The death toll from the Spanish flu is a rough estimate, given the incomplete records of the era and the scant scientific knowledge on the causes of the disease. The figure of 675,000 was reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before COVID-19, the flu of 1918-19 was considered the worst pandemic in human history. It is unclear whether the current pandemic will eventually be more deadly.
In many ways, the flu of 1918-1919, which was mistakenly called the Spanish flu because it was initially widely reported in the Spanish media, was more severe.
Spread by numerous human movements during World War I, the flu caused the deaths of a large number of young people without other health problems. Vaccines did not exist to slow its spread, and there were no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. And, of course, the world’s population was much smaller than it is today.
However, air travel, mass migration and the still low rate of vaccination threaten to increase the consequences of the current pandemic. / REL