Plagues & Wars: The "Spanish Flu" pandemic as a lesson from history
The “Spanish Flu” pandemic began in 1918, just as the First World War was drawing to a close. The conditions created by the war facilitated the spread of infectious disease, something that we can also see examples of in the present day. The pandemic went on to kill 50-100 million people around the world, so it is vital to understand the root causes and strategies that can be applied to prevent such a devastating event from occurring again. However, we would argue that very similar mistakes to those made by policy-makers in 1918, in terms of prioritising their war efforts over the health of the public, are also being made today. The lessons of history, in other words, are not being learned. In addition, the deliberate targeting of healthcare workers, as well as of civilian infrastructure, only exacerbates the risk of a new pandemic being nurtured and then spread from the cauldron of a modern war zone. We argue that health professionals have a humanitarian responsibility to advocate for the health of the population as a primary objective, and to hold policy-makers to account if they fail to uphold this ultimate priority.