tirsdag 24. mars 2020

Coronavirus: What India can learn from the deadly 1918 flu

All interest in living has ceased, Mahatma Gandhi, battling a vile flu in 1918, told a confidante at a retreat in the western Indian state of Gujarat. The highly infectious Spanish flu had swept through the ashram in Gujarat where 48-year-old Gandhi was living, four years after he had returned from South Africa. He rested, stuck to a liquid diet during "this protracted and first long illness" of his life. When news of his illness spread, a local newspaper wrote: "Gandhi's life does not belong to him - it belongs to India".

Outside, the deadly flu, which slunk in through a ship of returning soldiers that docked in Bombay (now Mumbai) in June 1918, ravaged India. The disease, according to health inspector JS Turner, came "like a thief in the night, its onset rapid and insidious". A second wave of the epidemic began in September in southern India and spread along the coastline. The influenza killed between 17 and 18 million Indians, more than all the casualties in World War One.