COVID-19

What the Spanish Flu of 1918 can teach us about COVID-19: this week's World Vs Virus podcast

Spanish Flu 1918 Covid-19 coronavirus Laura Spinney

The Spanish Flu didn't originate in Spain.

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
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COVID-19

  • At the end of the Great War, a deadly disease spread around the world.
  • The Spanish Flu killed 5 million people, but became a 'footnote of history'.
  • Author Laura Spinney tells the true story of the 20th Century's worst pandemic and what it can teach a world facing a similar threat.
  • Read more here.
  • World Versus Virus is a weekly podcast from the World Economic Forum.
  • Subscribe on Apple or Spotify to get it every week.

"We do have this extraordinary ability to forget pandemics and then to panic when the next one comes," author Laura Spinney tell this week's World Vs Virus podcast.

In her book, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World, Spinney argues that the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 did as much to transform the world as either of the world wars, with a huge impact on public health provision, family structures, colonialism, to name just a few areas.

Spinney tells us how the pandemic gave rise to not only socialized health systems, but also alternative medicines such as homeopathy, and how it made smoking 'cool'.

So why did the world largely forget about the Spanish Flu - and the two other pandemics since then that each killed more than 2 million people?

"That pandemic is remembered individually, as millions of discrete tragedies, not in a 'history book' sense, as something that happened effectively to humanity," Spinney tells WVV.

World Vs Virus is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts where it features on its Essential Listening collection.

Hosted by World Economic Forum editor Robin Pomeroy and published every week, the podcast puts the news in context with insights and analysis from top global experts in economics, technology, health and culture as well as the World Economic Forum’s reporters and editors.
Hosted by World Economic Forum editor Robin Pomeroy and published every week, the podcast puts the news in context with insights and analysis from top global experts in economics, technology, health and culture as well as the World Economic Forum’s reporters and editors. Image: World Economic Forum

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