We are going through what many call an unprecedented health crisis in the US and around the world. However, this crisis is not exactly unprecedented. What became known as the Spanish Flu – a global pandemic of 1918-1919 – was a modern pandemic. Even though the sophisticated data collection techniques we have today were not available a hundred years ago, vital statistic information collection for death rates and cause of death were around. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, “it is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the worlds population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.”
The object of this assignment is for you to listen to the program – An Unfinished Lesson: What The 1918 Flu Tells Us About Human Nature – linked below and then respond to and address the questions below. The program is an interview with Dr. Nancy Bristow, an historian with an investigative sociological bent who has studied and written about the Spanish Flu pandemic. Bristow’s interview covers several topics that relate to society and sit right in the middle of sociological study. Listen for those as you play through the interview as they will be part of what you will need to address in your discussion.
https://www.npr.org/2020/03/23/820066211/an-unfinished-lesson-what-the-1918-flu-tells-us-about-human-nature (Links to an external site.)
(1) One of Bristow’s points is that the information about this topic has been largely ignored. Before this module, had you ever heard about the Spanish Flu and if so, in what context?
(2) Can you see any similarities in societal behaviors and social justice between what was described in how people responded to the 1918 pandemic and what you are observing today? Yes or no and explain.
(3) Although there is no vaccine and no cure for COVID-19, putting our society on a par with the 1918 pandemic, we do understand more about viruses in general and how the virus is spread. And, we also have medical technology like ventilators that can assist people’s breathing while their bodies fight off the virus, thus, are in a better position for more people to survive. This leads to a very difficult question. We know that in a bad case scenario, there will not be sufficient ventilators for all who need them. Reaching into your system of values and ethics, if medical equipment has to be rationed, should scarce supplies go to those who are the sickest or those who are most likely to recover? Why?
(4) What did you find most surprising about the story of the 1918 pandemic and what are you likely to take away from this discussion?