My recently completed novel MS, Bird and Shadow, is set during an era when the 1918-1919 H1N1 virus grew into a pandemic. The virus hitched a ride with service men and women returning to their homes from Europe at the end of World War 1. In the allied countries it was initially known as ‘the German Disease’. It received the probably inaccurate title of ‘Spanish Flu’ after King Alfonso XIII of Spain fell ill but recovered. One hundred years later we have ex-President Trump referring to our coronavirus pandemic as the ‘Chinese Virus’. But despite this blame-game, the ferocity of the pandemic acts as a call to co-operate for the good of each other.
As we start another year of the Covid-19 nightmare, over seven billion people (our world-wide population) have been impacted, either directly or indirectly. The nervous anticipation of scientists and governments as we race to produce and deliver vaccines reflects a similar situation about a hundred years ago when the flu pandemic travelled the globe. Scientists back then also experimented with vaccines, none of which was effective. But then, as now, other preventative measures were enforced. Popular public places were closed, ships and travellers were quarantined, quarantine areas were established, and face-masks were worn.
If anything is different now, it is that we have a greater understanding of the importance of scientific research and health professionals. In my novel, the influenza pandemic is one of the challenges faced by my central character, a nurse who battles to establish a hospital.
(Photo above by permission of the State Library of Queensland)