BACK TO THE FUTURE. Latvia in the news then and now. Pt.2 - six steps to avoid epidemic in 1920.

A bit more than 100 years ago, Influenza Pandemic was another global event that terrorized the world. Despite having multiple differences to covid-19, we still found entertainment in an article composed around that time in Latvia with 6 rules recommended to avoid the Spanish flu with similar, yet peculiarly formulated methods to the novel coronavirus.

THEN

In two years from 1918 - 1920, Influenza Pandemic infected more than 500 million people (about a quarter of the world's population). "The death toll is estimated to have been around 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history (Wikipedia; 2020)". Ironically, it would again hit the USA the hardest as it is now about to be tormented by covid-19.

In Latvia, the pandemic would arrive in September - October 1918, reaching its culmination in November - December. Newspapers would only start proper coverage by the beginning of October with an article by a doctor describing the epidemic in Moscow. Later on small recurring paragraphs would be scattered through November when the virus was already across the country (periodika.lv; 2020).

It is said that a crucial cause of many falling ill and eventually dying globally was the lack of media coverage during the pandemic (and it seems from the news that people were more concerned about fighting the "Bolshevik epidemic" in Latvia then).

Only in a few months there were 3000 infection cases in Riga while 82 died in Liepāja, another vital industrial town in West Latvia (LSM.lv; 2018). The illness would go away but later be shortlisted in weekly health reports at "Valdības Vēstnesis", the official newspaper of the parliament. Thankfully, influenza would prove itself being dormant at the time, at least, in Riga.

Weekly health report in Riga (Valdības Vēstnesis; 07.07.1921).

The speed of transmission, the fact of pre-symptomatic transmission, reproductive numbers, main drivers in population, mortality rates, and fraction with severe disease are only a handful of aspects what make covid-19 and influenza different from each other. In the interim, both viruses have a similar presentation - they both cause respiratory disease and both are transmitted by contact, droplets, and fomites (WHO; 2020).

So be careful - despite the fact that both covid-19 and influenza demand same public health measures (such as hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette), comparing those two can end up empty-handed and should not be practised.

In 1920, when the Spanish flu would return to West Latvia, there were finally more articles appearing in the news and continuing through next few decades. In a regional newspaper of that year we found 6 practical, as well as peculiarly formulated rules to obey in order to protect oneself from the pandemic in Liepāja.

Here are the 6 steps - as presented 100 years ago and as damn efficient even today (with one exception, you guess):
  1. avoid catching a cold and feed yourself well;
  2. comply with cleanness in flats and on flesh and clothing;
  3. it is not recommendable to go where people are ill with influenza, especially taken into consideration for "little people" and those ill of phthisis;
  4. schools and various establishments must pay attention to sanitary-hygienic demands and health conditions to pupils and establishment dwellers;
  5. one can gargle the throat with manganate acid and potassium fusion, boric acid, and suchlike remedies, although not pining any large faith in it;
  6. it's advisable that the respective establishments look after people not standing in queues and freezing when waiting for food-stuff;
Kurzemes Vārds Nr.12 (16.01.1920)

NOW

From 12 March until 14 April, a temporary national lockdown has been announced in Latvia. It demands all the repatriating or infected to stay in quarantine for 14 days (those in question are regularly checked by the police), and others not ill to practice self-isolation and social distancing. The latter includes emergency measures like:
  • staying at home when possible;
  • avoiding public spaces;
  • keeping a personal distance larger than 2 m when in public (Since 29 March, only two people or family, or household members can be closer than 2 metres in public. Weddings are possible at "2+2" with the couple and witnesses, funerals are possible only outside by keeping distance.);
  • disinfecting or washing hands for at least 20 seconds on hourly basis or more often;
  • not touching face;
  • maintaining physical activities (cycling, yoga, lonely hikes or running suggested);
  • sneezing and coughing in elbow or a tissue;
  • immediate disposing of the tissue;
  • and others (full list).

MORE INFO

In order to keep you informed constantly during the coronavirus lockdown in Latvia, we have created a real-time article with some official info about statistics on covid-19 cases, brief look into political statements, and changes in public realm mostly in Riga. This extensive article is updated daily around 10AM and 6PM until the end of lockdown on 14 April, or longer if necessary.

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