Donald Trump has once again blundered through an account of the Spanish Flu after wrongly claiming it started in 1917 and ended World War One.
The President has frequently drawn comparisons between the early 20th Century influenza pandemic and coronavirus but has repeatedly muddled his history.
Speaking at last night’s Fox News virtual town hall meeting at the Lincoln Memorial, he said: ‘So in 1917 we had a horrible flu, the Spanish flu. So much has been written about it…
‘It killed between 50 to 100 million people and probably ended the First World War because all the soldiers were getting sick. It was the worst the world has ever seen, that we know of.’
His version of events raised eyebrows from viewers who were quick to point out that the Spanish Flu broke out in 1918 – it is even commonly referred to as the 1918 pandemic.
Donald Trump has once again blundered through an account of the Spanish Flu after wrongly claiming it started in 1917 and ended World War One
Mask-wearing women hold stretchers near ambulances during the Spanish Flu pandemic in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. in October 1918
Viewers also took to social media to express surprise none of Trump’s aides had told him the Spanish Flu started in 1918 after he previously made the mistake from the podium of the White House press briefings.
Dr Dena Grayson tweeted: ‘Donald Trump has repeatedly and wrongly claimed that the Spanish Flu influenza pandemic was in 1917, yet the first case was diagnosed in 1918. Weirdly, no one has corrected him.’
The Spanish Flu is also not widely credited with bringing the curtain down on the First World War.
Although there are multiple factors heralded as ending the war – not least the Allies’ bolstered firepower following the intervention of the United States – the pandemic is not among those mooted by scholars.
While the President’s errors drew some scorn on social media, the remarks were largely eclipsed by his attacks on China, swipes at Democrats and hopes of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020
Spanish Flu came in three waves – spring 1918, fall 1918 and winter 1919.
The second and deadliest wave of the pandemic came when the Great War was winding down.
News of the virus was largely suppressed during the war by both the Allies and the Central Powers to keep morale on the frontline high.
Spain, a neutral nation, broke ranks and became a near lone voice in publishing information about it, lending it the name Spanish Flu.
While the President’s errors drew some scorn on social media, the remarks were largely eclipsed by his attacks on China, swipes at Democrats and hopes of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020.
THE 1918 FLU OUTBREAK – THE WORST THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN
The deadly flu virus attacked more than one-third of the world’s population, and within months had killed more than 50 million people – three times as many as World War I – and did it more quickly than any other illness in recorded history.
Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients; in contrast the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults.
Red Cross volunteers fighting against the Spanish flu epidemic in United States in 1918
To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States.
However, newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in Spain, creating a false impression of Spain as being especially hard hit – and leading to the pandemic’s nickname Spanish flu.
The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation, researchers believe.
The global mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but an estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected died, with estimates of the total number of deaths ranging from 50-100 million people.
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