Outbreaks from the Past: Can the US Make it Through the Coronavirus?


Mirna Kelley

Photo shows journalist Caitlynn Kelley holding up a homemade sign that reads: "Coronavirus, you will be dethroned." Polio, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and the swine flu have all been eradicated in the United States, the swine flu being eradicated in 2010. The Coronavirus has made society more uncertain about the economy and depressed over isolation. However, people should remember that since the US has made it through these outbreaks, the US and the world can make it through another one.

The recent pandemic has negatively impacted the daily lives and routines of everyone around the world. COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is a virus that originated from Wuhan, China. The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. The symptoms can become worse if the person that is infected has diabetes, is elderly, or has respiratory issues. It is known to be very contagious and it can be spread before someone shows symptoms.  Schools, restaurants, and various other institutions have closed down to stop the spread of the virus and even many states in the US have shut down. People in the US and around the world are very worried about the social and economic repercussions of COVID-19. All of the job gains that were made after the 2008 recession were lost. 22 million people in the United States have filed that they are unemployed; just from April 6th through the 12th, 5.2 million people filed for unemployment. This is significantly less than the 6.9 million people who filed for unemployment in the last week of March. Stimulus checks, payment from the government for those who are unemployed, have been delayed due to glitches in the system. 

President Trump wants to open up the economy again. He has hope that our economy will be up and running in no time. However, there are predictions that Americans will be wary of going to restaurants and other public spaces before there is a vaccine for the coronavirus. There has been a rise in calls and texts to various suicide prevention lines across the country due to isolation or sickness of a loved one. The panic that this pandemic has caused has driven people to hoard toilet paper, paper towels, and other items. Even though the panic that surrounds the coronavirus is definitely caused by good reasons, people should remember that COVID-19 shall pass, and that this isn’t the first time that the United States has dealt with viral outbreaks. In this country, we have dealt with several outbreaks, including the Swine Flu, the Spanish flu, and Polio. If the nation was able to get through those outbreaks, the country will definitely be able to move forward from the coronavirus.

https://flic.kr/p/Lym6Vf (State Library of Queensland Brisbane, Australia)
The Spanish Flu killed 50 million people worldwide, which makes it the deadliest virus in modern history. The women photographed were from Australia. During the Spanish flu 1919 outbreak in Australia, there was quite a low death toll (which includes 12,000-15,000 people compared to the 675,000 Americans that died because of the Spanish flu).

The Spanish flu is the deadliest flu in modern history. The first case in the US was in March 1918. During WWI, the US soldiers carried the Spanish flu to the US and all over the world.  Cramped spaces and unsanitary conditions worsened the spread of the virus. Around 700,000 people died of the Spanish flu in the US. Over 50 million deaths were caused by the virus worldwide. Isolation and quarantine practices were used to contain the virus. There were various symptoms for different stages of Spanish flu; the initial symptoms were fatigue and a sore head and even pneumonia could develop later on. The younger generation had a higher chance of death. There weren’t any vaccines or antibiotics that could help treat influenza. Despite the misnomer, the virus didn’t originate in Spain. The high circulation of articles about the Spanish flu from Spain (which was a neutral country during the war) led people to think that it originated there. Both the Allied and Central powers during WWI had press censors in place to keep morale high for the war. That is why the Spanish flu wasn’t covered during the war. The amount of deaths caused by the Spanish flu is more than the number of civilian and military deaths from WWI. 

https://flic.kr/p/23UpcUd (jackcast2015)
Polio was one of the most feared epidemics in America during the 1950s. One of the main reasons why polio was (and is still) feared today is because of the chance of becoming paralyzed in the spinal cord, which leads to being crippled (for life in some cases). Polio still hasn’t been eradicated in certain countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.

Another one of the most feared viruses in the United States was polio. Parents were so worried about the well-being of their child that they didn’t let them go outside and play during the summer, when the polio cases rose. The most serious symptom of polio is paralysis. Paralysis is the state where the parts of the body are immobile. Other serious symptoms include meningitis (infection of the spinal cord) and paresthesia (prickling sensation in legs). The less severe symptoms are fever, sore throat, and stomach pain. There were quarantines that were imposed by local health officials on towns that had confirmed diagnosis of Polio to help stop the spread. The first vaccination for polio was developed in the United States in 1950. Since 1979, the United States has been polio free. However, in other countries across the world (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria) polio hasn’t been eradicated yet. 

Senior Betty Calleros believes that people definitely have the right to be concerned about the social and economic consequences that stem from the coronavirus. “This is something many of us have never been through or seen before. We don’t know what the outcome to this may be, which is why many people fear the economy’s future and how it will impact social life. I’m shocked at the fact that calls to the suicide hotline have increased. It makes me realize how people are very much full of fear that they are willing to kill themselves rather than eventually get through this. My fears are that we may not ever go back to how things normally were and that life will completely change beyond this point.”

She doesn’t know much about the listed outbreaks, but she does know their drastic effect on society, “…I do know that they also killed many people and impacted the world… I do believe that we will make it through this pandemic like we did with the others since technology today is way more advanced and it can be easier to find a cure, and by working together we can stop the spread and get through it.”

Calleros notices how important social ties are and is doing a lot to occupy herself during quarantine. “Ever since we’ve been in quarantine, I’ve noticed that being around others is super important, plus it makes quarantine less boring than it actually is. I, myself, am having trouble coping with the isolation part. I’m a very outgoing person, so I love being out in the open and exploring. Having to stay inside all day has bored me, although it has given me new ideas and led me to try new things.”

Her advice to those who are dealing with depression and anxiety during this time is: “… that there’s going to be a good outcome to this and that we’re going to get through it and that we’re all in this together.”

Calleros’s encouragement to those who feel worried is that, “…We can view this as something that can bring us closer together and work harder. I believe that this is all going to come to a good ending and we should make time in quarantine to try new things. To keep myself motivated during this time I just walk around the house and see what there is to do. I’ve painted, reorganized my closet multiple times and even remodeled my room, which was actually very fun.”

Eighth grader Madison Porter is saddened by the rise in calls and texts to various suicide hotlines. “I think people are just worried. They need someone to talk to.”

She is optimistic in regards to the United States making it out of the coronavirus and says that our economy won’t be affected that much.

Porter states her opinion on how people are handling the coronavirus and if people are blowing it out of proportion, “I don’t think they are handling it as well as they could be, but I don’t think they are blowing it completely out of proportion.”

She states her solution to recovering from outbreaks and the information that she knows about the swine flu. “…I think we can make it through anything if we take precautions and make smart decisions. All I know about the swine flu is that it affected many people like the coronavirus.”

Pete Souza (Official White House Photo)
US President Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama waited to get vaccinated for the swine flu to make sure that enough vaccines were available for the children and young adults first. The youth were most likely to get the swine flu, whereas the older generations had more of an immunity to the virus because they might’ve had contact with a similar virus in the past.

One of the most recent virus outbreaks in the United States and across the world, the swine flu, had its first cases in Mexico in January 2009 and in the United States in April 2009. Close to 600,000 died because of the virus. There was no vaccine for the virus until October 5, 2009. However, the vaccine wasn’t available in large amounts until November 2009. People who were younger than 65 years old were the ones that were affected by this virus the most. People older than 65 had some immunity from the virus because of their contact from viruses that were similar to the swine flu. This contrasts to the coronavirus, because the elderly are the ones that are highly susceptible to it. It particularly affected children, middle age adults, and young adults. The symptoms of the swine flu include chills, cough, body aches, occasionally a fever, etc. 

Porter believes that the coronavirus quarantine shows the need to be more appreciative of certain things that we have become accustomed to. “I think the coronavirus is showing people how much they took leaving their house and going to school for granted. My advice is don’t just go lock yourself in your bedroom. Talk to your family or video chat/call your friend. I am pretty sure it could ease the tension to talk to someone else and they can keep your mind off it.”

She elaborates on what she does to keep herself occupied during quarantine. “I love to video chat my friends and do my bible studies with my friends. I keep myself grounded by doing as much normal stuff as I can just online or in my house. I also have been doing a lot of painting since it brings me joy.”

She encourages those who are having a difficult time emotionally during quarantine to, “… try not to keep it on their mind 24/7 and to do something that they enjoy.”

Eighth grader Declan Tess believes that a lot of economies in different countries around the world, including the US, will crash. He believes that since a lot of economies will crash, that the damage to the US economy won’t be drastic. 

Tess gives his reaction to the increased amount of calls and texts to suicide hotlines in the US, “…As for suicide and other calls I think they’re unnecessary, as it shouldn’t instill this much fear and it is nowhere as bad as it seems. It’s also closing down tiny businesses and skiing which is sad.”

He believes that the coronavirus’s effect has been blown out of proportion. “It hasn’t killed a whole ton of people, and it’s not the end of the world.”

Tess states what he knows about the swine flu, Spanish flu, and polio, “The swine flu originated in pigs, and was thought to be very dangerous since it spread quickly. The Spanish flu caused a lot of panic due to it killing so many people, compared to their tiny population. Polio was scary since children were becoming quarantined, paralyzed, etc. No one wanted their kids to become paralyzed. They don’t affect us that much now since we now have vaccines. Their impact was much larger since the population was smaller and much less was known about medical science.”

He believes that our country will be able to recover easily with the quarantine.

Tess states how the coronavirus shows how we need human contact. “The coronavirus shows us how much we can miss our friends, and how interacting with others affects our joy. Everyone I’ve talked to is not having a hard time coping, they’re just bored.

His advice to those who are having a hard time coping during quarantine is to, “get up and find 5 things that are majorly time consuming to do each day, and FaceTime your friends often.”

His words of guidance to those who are anxious because of the coronavirus are, “… to just keep calm, you’ll be ok, and stay inside. During this time to keep myself motivated, I just think about how great this summer will be with all the growing anticipation to get outside.”

The United States and other countries are going through very uncertain and unprecedented times. The coronavirus has not only impacted the lives of those who get infected with it, but it also has had a major impact socially and economically. Many people are having a difficult time mentally due to the isolation part of quarantine. In the United States, a lot of people are becoming unemployed and are having a difficult time getting their stimulus checks. Even through all of this turbulence that the nation is going through right now, past outbreaks have shown that the citizens of the United States will be able to pull through this and that our communities will get back to normal with time.