Comparing 1918 Spanish flu to COVID-19 in Kentucky


(CBS News)

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KENTUCKY (WDKY) – The COVID-19 outbreak we are experiencing now is similar to what happened more than 100 years ago.

We’ve heard Governor Beshear talk about the Spanish flu and how St. Louis and Philadelphia treated the outbreak differently. But what was its impact on Kentucky?

The summer and fall of 1918 was a devastating time for most of the world, as the Spanish flu killed millions of people. And Kentucky was not immune.

During his news conferences, Governor Andy Beshear routinely brings up the graph showing how St. Louis and Philadelphia responded to the outbreak.

Cases spiked in Philadelphia, one of the reasons was that Philadelphia did not cancel a parade in the city, like St. Louis did.

Historical records show that within a week 10,000 people died in Philadelphia of 45,000 infected.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, 14,000 people died in Kentucky and it hit Louisville and eastern Kentucky especially hard.

Once the outbreak happened, the article says the restrictions used then were eerily similar to what we are doing now, such as closing theaters, saloons, and schools.

The Spanish flu is considered the worst pandemic of the 20th century.

It’s also the original outbreak of H1N1 which had a resurgence in 2009 and resulted in a mad dash of seniors, the young, and pregnant women to get vaccinated.

The Courier-Journal also reported that Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, which then was the nation’s large military base, was especially hit hard, with 11,000 people being infected there alone.

The disease had its biggest toll over from September to December 1918.

Historical records show that 28 percent of all Americans were infected by the Spanish flu and it killed 675,000, 10 times as many as World War I.

The good news is that a vaccine was developed out of that pandemic.

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