Spanish flu, HIV, Ebola: how U.S. presidents have struggled with epidemics

The history of mankind is the history of epidemics. Compared to people who lived even 100 years ago, we are very well aware of the “Voice of America”. We know that there are some causative agents of disease, mechanisms of transmission, we know about how the disease progresses and — at least theoretically — as with some of the disease to cope with. And our recent ancestors did not know.

Испанский грипп, ВИЧ, лихорадка Эбола: как президенты США боролись с эпидемиями

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US presidents, as the heads of any other States, the maximum that could be done — it’s not too late to quarantine. And even that was very difficult, because in America a lot of power have the States, the municipalities, and if the President interferes in something that is the prerogative of the state, is a terrible scandal. The presidents were able somehow to help the victims. More of them did not expect.

A classic example in the early twentieth century was the “Spanish flu”. The President of the United States was then Woodrow Wilson — an intellectual, the President of Princeton University, author of many books. No one expected that he would be able somehow to stop the epidemic of “Spanish flu”, which is in terrible quantities of dead Americans. The army was faced with the fact that the recruits and soldiers who live in barracks and do the service for the fight against the epidemic, massively to die from this flu. The us military actually contributed to the spread of “Spanish flu” because they went to Europe on ships that were making infection inevitable.

Sam Wilson sick “Spanish flu” — is also one of the factors of the epidemic, which has affected international politics. He participated in the international conference in Paris following the First world war and discussed the fate of the world being sick, signed “Treaty of Versailles”. Said that very much deteriorated his mental abilities due to illness, he ceased to be that Wilson, as he was known before. And, apparently, from the effects of the Spanish flu, he died.

But it is said that in 1918, Wilson never mentioned the “Spanish flu”, as the Newspapers of the allied countries it was forbidden to write in detail about the disease, because there was a war and this information could strengthen the enemy. Why the virus spread around the world, called the Spanish virus? Because Spanish Newspapers of the country that is not at war — it was free. All agreed that time in the Spanish Newspapers about it write a lot, the virus appeared in Spain. In fact, he appeared somewhere in Asia, probably in China.

Just like now we see a lot of tips about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus as they do not become infected, then it was a lot of advice regarding the “Spanish flu”. Very conscious were the people of new York: everything, even the janitors, wore masks. There are even PSAs, which campaigned to wear the mask and said, “Better to look ridiculous than dead.”

Interestingly, by the time the humanity has accumulated a great experience of combating epidemics, but funds have not yet been. The same new York was terribly dirty town — there were incredible slums, garbage in the streets, heaps of manure, biological substance on which thrive a variety of bacteria. People do not know how to handle the garbage. At best, there were huge barrels of carbolic acid, which is filled with everything you can, believing that this can somehow help. But it helps not very much.

In addition, influenza “Spanish flu” was not the only killer of mankind in those times: raging tuberculosis, continued smallpox, whooping cough, diphtheria. Interestingly, when in 1925, Alaska had an outbreak of diphtheria in many settlements had to deliver the serum to dogs, one such dog, even a monument. But it we are talking about the case when there was already some kind of vaccine and treatment methods. And in many cases humanity did not know what he encounters.

But fast forward a few decades ahead.

In 1981 in the Bulletin of the Centers for control and prevention of diseases — the state of the American organization, which is engaged in the control of disease, — there was a mention of that in Los Angeles is strangely ill 5 gays, before that healthy young people. They have discovered a terrible bouquet of the most exotic diseases, which demonstrates that they have problems with immunity. At the time of publication, two of these patients died. It is believed that this is the first mention of the beginning of the “plague of XX century”.

This was followed by a survey, which showed that the virus originated somewhere in Africa, and cases of Americans, Europeans, South Americans recorded before, just nobody paid attention. There is some new threat, suffered mostly at the time the gay community. The epidemic raged in Los Angeles and new York. And since we are talking about how it acted at different times presidents during epidemics, it is worth mentioning that when the epidemic broke out in new York, many accused the administrations of presidents acting then.

For example, historian Jonathan Soffer said that the main blame for this lay on the administrations of presidents Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The main culprit is usually referred to Reagan because his subordinates have repeatedly said that we are talking about the “gay plague”. Then the name was not yet a disease so called. Reagan relied on conservative voters who believed gay people the product of something very terrible. Reagan mentioned the existence of the epidemic in 1985 — that is, 4 years after the epidemic began. Was subsequently increased spending on combating the epidemic in several thousand times, but, according to critics of the President, precious time was lost. When Reagan died, members of the gay community are very critical of it because it was called a “killer gay”. They were not trying to save the state does not interfere in this area and did not use methods of combating the epidemic, pretending that nothing is happening.

Once Reagan made a speech and said that with deep sympathy with children who were infected, but he understands the discontent of parents of healthy children, with whom such a child may be in school. Although by that time it was known that by household HIV is not transmitted, and the children were safe for the peers. The President this could not be known, but he went the traditional route, who welcomed the conservative circles of America. Then the epidemic was at an early stage and the virus in this case was little known America was faced with many other diseases — tuberculosis, venereal diseases were on the rise. So to make the right decision the President was not easy. But the fact that he never tried using his power and moral authority to intervene in the process, not talked about it, played a certain role.

You can with a kind word to mention President George Bush, who very much do not like, but who has made the allocation of huge sums to fight the epidemic worldwide. Largely through his efforts was able to reduce the scale of the epidemic in the world. In his reign occurred and SARS, and swine flu.

There is a tale of how the boy several times shouted: “wolves, Wolves!”, people were running and saw no wolves, and when wolves come in fact, people have not rushed. So the international medical organization every time you begin to shout: “Wolves!” Sometimes they make mistakes, but should never neglect their cries, because we don’t know what it means. The same “Spanish flu” seemed like a normal flu, which is known to all, but became a record for the number of lost lives. It was a modern, civilized humanity, the peak of scientific thought, the twentieth century — but it was unable to cope with the virus.

In terms of the epidemic are checked presidents? The leadership and moral example. If we turn to the first U.S. President George Washington — Washington did not exist, small government was sitting in Philadelphia,where an epidemic of yellow fever brought from the Caribbean. George Washington ran away from Philadelphia and all over. He did not state claims — and what could he do? He wasn’t supposed to die heroically, along with all but had to govern. And went down in history as the founder of the American state and the greatest President. And this episode was forgotten.

Donald trump in 2014, when there was the President, accusing Obama of reckless actions and “incompetence” in his Twitter: “It’s a complete disaster — he could do something important, namely, to suspend flights to African countries.” And Obama sent the military, who helped to fight the Ebola epidemic. Obama’s ratings were very low, but he has repeatedly said that every crisis presents new opportunities. And his team managed to prevent the occurrence of the epidemic in the United States, after which ratings went up sharply.

Now Democrats who are fighting for the White house, accused the President of trump is that he did not adequately respond to a serious threat, and the President proves that, on the contrary, his administration is doing everything right. Who is right, will check on my own skin. Most important — wash your hands and stay healthy!



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