Got a runny nose? Sore throat? Muscle pains? Headache? And absolutely no sympathy from family and friends who reckon you’ve just got a bit of a cold and you’re milking it for all it’s worth?
Well fair enough, you might not have tuberculosis or the Black Death, but even if it is in fact just an annual bout of flu, you’ve got one of the most deadly diseases known to man – you just have to look at the bigger picture.
Influenza spreads around the world in a yearly outbreak, resulting in about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths – that’s up to half a million dead just in a regular year.
In the Northern and Southern parts of the world outbreaks occur mainly in winter while in areas around the equator outbreaks may occur at any time of the year. Death occurs mostly in the young, the old and those with other health problems.
That’s what happens when flu is just cruising along, taking it easy. But what happens when flu steps up a gear?
In the 20th century three influenza pandemics occurred: Spanish influenza in 1918, Asian influenza in 1958, and Hong Kong influenza in 1968.
The Asian and Hong Kong outbreaks each claimed about a million people. But that Spanish episode in 1918? That finished off up to 100 million, or around five percent of the world’s population at the time. It has been described as “the greatest medical holocaust in history”.
So if you’re still not getting any sympathy, point your so-called loved ones to this post.
And if you’re still not getting any sympathy, leave your handkerchiefs lying around and let’s see how they like it.