#107 - John Barry: 1918 Spanish flu pandemic—historical account, parallels to today, and lessons

By Peter Attia, MD

n this episode, John Barry, historian and author of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, describes what happened with the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, including where it likely originated, how and why it spread, and what may have accounted for the occurrence of three separate waves of the virus, each with different rates of infection and mortality. While the current coronavirus pandemic pales in comparison to the devastation of the Spanish flu, John highlights a number of parallels that can be drawn and lessons to be learned and applied going forward. We discuss: What got John interested in the Spanish flu and led to him writing his book? [2:45]; Historical account of the 1918 Spanish flu—origin, the first wave in the summer of 1918, the death rate, and how it compared to other pandemics [10:30]; Evidence that second wave in the fall of 1918 was a mutation of the same virus, and the immunity immunity protection for those exposed to the first wave [18:00]; What impact did World War I have on the spread and the propagation of a “second wave”? [21:45]; How the government’s response may have impacted the death toll [26:15]; Pathology of the Spanish flu, symptoms, time course, transmissibility, mortality, and how it compares to COVID-19 [29:30]; The deadly second wave—The story of Philadelphia and a government and media in cahoots to downplay the truth [35:50]; What role did social distancing and prior exposure to the first wave play in the differing mortality rates city to city? [44:45]; The importance of being truthful with the public—Is honesty the key to reducing fear and panic to bring a community together and combat the socially-isolating nature of pandemic? [46:15]; Third wave of Spanish flu in the spring of 1919 [51:30]; Global impact of Spanish flu, a high mortality in the younger population, and why India hit so much harder than other countries [55:15]; What happened to the economy and the mental psyche of the public in the years following the pandemic? [59:20]; Comparing the 2009 H1N1 virus to Spanish flu [1:02:10]; Comparing SARS-CoV-2 to the Spanish flu [1:04:20]; What are John’s thoughts on how our government and leaders have handled the current pandemic? [1:08:00]; Sweden’s herd immunity approach, and understanding case mortality rate vs. infection mortality rate [1:10:40]; What are some important lessons that we can apply going forward? [1:13:00]; Does John think we will be better prepared for this in the future? [1:16:00]; and More Learn more: https://peterattiamd.com/ Show notes page for this episode:  https://peterattiamd.com/johnbarry Subscribe to receive exclusive subscriber-only content: https://peterattiamd.com/subscribe/ Sign up to receive Peter's email newsletter: https://peterattiamd.com/newsletter/ Connect with Peter on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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