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A little perspective on the current pandemic hysteria

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Hysteria:  behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess... 

The year was 1957.

Elvis Was King, Ike Was President, and 116,000 Americans Died in a Pandemic

Elvis’s new movie “Jailhouse Rock” was packing the theaters. The last episode of “I Love Lucy” aired on television. The show “West Side Story” held tryouts in Washington, D.C., and opened on Broadway in September. Ford’s new car the Edsel rolled off the assembly line. The Cold War with Russia was on and “In God We Trust” appeared on U.S. currency. The first Toys R Us store opened. 

Also that year, the so-called Asian Flu killed 116,000 Americans. Here is the full summary from the Centers for Disease Control:

In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering a pandemic (“Asian Flu”). This H2N2 virus was comprised of three different genes from an H2N2 virus that originated from an avian influenza A virus, including the H2 hemagglutinin and the N2 neuraminidase genes. It was first reported in Singapore in February 1957, Hong Kong in April 1957, and in coastal cities in the United States in summer 1957. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.

Like the current pandemic, there was a demographic pattern to the deaths. It hit the elderly population with heart and lung disease. In a frightening twist, the virus could also be fatal for pregnant women. The infection rate was probably even higher than the Spanish flu of 1918 (675,000 Americans died from this), but this lowered the overall case fatality rate to 0.67%. A vaccine became available in late 1957 but was not widely distributed. 

The population of the U.S. at the time was 172 million, which is a little more than half of the current population. Life expectancy was 69 as versus 78 today. Even with shorter lives, it was a healthier population with lower rates of obesity. To extrapolate the data to a counterfactual, we can conclude that this virus was more wicked than COVID-19 thus far. 

What’s remarkable when we look back at this year, nothing was shut down. Restaurants, schools, theaters, sporting events, travel – everything continued without interruption. Without a 24-hour news cycle with thousands of news agencies and a billion websites hungry for traffic, mostly people paid no attention other than to keep basic hygiene. It was covered in the press as a medical problem. The notion that there was a political solution never occurred to anyone. 

[Note of correction. A correspondent pointed out to me that “The October 1957 LDS General Conference was cancelled because of the flu epidemic in 1957 and there may have been other organizations that did so.” I’m grateful for the correction, and it makes the point: society was not ignorant of the pandemic. Instead, there was a variety of intelligent responses depending on the risk. I’m speculating that this event would have included quite a number of people on the list of the vulnerable.]

Again, this was a very serious flu, and it persisted for 10 years until it mutated to become the Hong Kong flu of 1968. 

Screen-Shot-2020-05-04-at-9.52.11-AM-1.p

The New York Times had some but not much coverage. On September 18, 1957, an editorial counseled: “Let us all keep a cool head about Asian influenza as the statistics on the spread and the virulence of the disease begin to accumulate. For one thing, let us be sure that the 1957 type of A influenza virus is innocuous, as early returns show, and that antibiotics can indeed control the complications that may develop.”

The mystery of why today vast numbers of governments around the world (but not all) have crushed economies, locked people under house arrest, wrecked business, spread despair, disregarded basic freedoms and rights will require years if not decades to sort out. Is it the news cycle that is creating mass hysteria? Political ambition and arrogance? A decline in philosophical regard for freedom as the best system for dealing with crises? Most likely, the ultimate answer will look roughly like what historians say about the Great War (WWI): it was a perfect storm that created a calamity that no one intended at the outset. 

For staying calm and treating the terrible Asian flu of 1957 as a medical problem to address with medical intelligence, rather than as an excuse to unleash Medieval-style brutality, this first postwar generation deserves our respect and admiration. 

Jeffrey A. Tucker  

Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research.

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And at that time the population of America was 172 million about half what it is now.  Hence, scaled to current U.S. population that death rate would equate to about 230,000 now.

:D 

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7 minutes ago, Sunshineyday? said:

The big difference is the people who led us thru the problem.

Take you political crap elsewhere ! Geez !!!

 

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I am no way supporting or standing up for Trump in any way, but in all honesty, the truly biggest difference is how the media is telling it and over telling it and creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia for the American public.

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It's a common tactic of those who want to discredit something to characterize those who believe it as "hysterical".  I don't think the majority of people are displaying "overwhelming or unmanageable fear of excess" - I haven't witnessed that in anyone I've been talking to. Most are just trying to keep themselves informed and take what they feel are necessary precautions. 

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The today's media is not evil and it is not all fake news, but it is all a money making business not so much to inform but to be lucrative.  Who could possibly deny that? But an all around excellent, interesting and an informative piece.

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29 minutes ago, Sunshineyday? said:

The big difference is the people who led us thru the problem.

You got that right!  Now we have monkeys.

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8 minutes ago, dichosalocura said:

I am no way supporting or standing up for Trump in any way, but in all honesty, the truly biggest difference is how the media is telling it and over telling it and creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia for the American public.

We should and need to be afraid.

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Yes, a percentage of the population certainly being the elderly and enfermed need to be alarmed, but certainly not the grand majority of the population as in the young and working population that keep the economy churning.

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This is not just here or the US. This is worldwide. You might want to look at the average age worldwide. Think about the lower birthrates for the past 50 years? So what happens?

 

 

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5 minutes ago, dichosalocura said:

Yes, a percentage of the population certainly being the elderly and enfermed need to be alarmed, but certainly not the grand majority of the population as in the young and working population that keep the economy churning.

Okey dokey, I will not mourn your passing, as long as it is good for the economy!

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Really...to be walking around on the street with nobody around and wearing a mask?  To have helicopters observing us.  It makes no sense.  I am sure I will get all types of criticism for this as most cannot tolerate a view point that does not agree with mainstream.  It all defies logic.

It's really simple.  People who have compromised immune systems and feel they are at risk can take all their precautions, including staying home.  They can stay where they feel secure and control the ins and outs in their own homes.  They can wear masks or whatever it is that makes them feel secure.

The rest can make their own decision.  We are adults, not children who need a government to run our lives and have police helicopters flying over and threatening us. 

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1 minute ago, Zeb said:

Really...to be walking around on the street with nobody around and wearing a mask?  To have helicopters observing us.  It makes no sense.  I am sure I will get all types of criticism for this as most cannot tolerate a view point that does not agree with mainstream.  It all defies logic.

It's really simple.  People who have compromised immune systems and feel they are at risk can take all their precautions, including staying home.  They can stay where they feel secure and control the ins and outs in their own homes.  They can wear masks or whatever it is that makes them feel secure.

The rest can make their own decision.  We are adults, not children who need a government to run our lives and have police helicopters flying over and threatening us. 

A shallow and self center point of view.

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16 minutes ago, El Menudo said:

You got that right!  Now we have monkeys.

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The critical difference is that Covid 19 is TEN times more contagious than the flu , no comparison

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11 minutes ago, ea93105 said:

The critical difference is that Covid 19 is TEN times more contagious than the flu , no comparison

Yes, but TEN times more contagious is far from saying TEN times more deadly.  Remember that more than 98% of the population that get it recover and do not die.

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1 minute ago, dichosalocura said:

Yes, but TEN times more contagious is far from saying TEN times more deadly.  Remember that more than 98% of the population that get it recover and do not die.

Lame comparison.

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1 hour ago, ea93105 said:

The critical difference is that Covid 19 is TEN times more contagious than the flu , no comparison

Flu is a virus as is a cold and there have many versions of it. Which strain are you talking about. Where is your data. What is your background and why should anyone pay any attention.to you. 

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