spanish flu pandemic
Image: Flickr/ GPA Photo Archive/ White House

Trump Says the Spanish Flu Pandemic Ended the World War II

The ongoing coronavirus crisis now has over two million confirmed cases around the world with a rising death toll in almost all countries affected by the infection. Infectious disease experts and health agencies state that the virus may never be eradicated. However, it is also said that the situation will fortunately not be as bad as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1917-18 due to medicinal and technological advancements in the twenty-first century.

Since the first outbreak of the H1N1 virus in the early twentieth century, medical science has improved with an increase in research and advancements in technology as well as bigger healthcare systems. There are also several other factors that make the current pandemic different from the current one.

Although researchers state that the H1N1 epidemic is the closest comparison to a coronavirus health crisis, it should be noted that during the outbreak of the former, all major countries were in the war, and providing healthcare at the time was extremely difficult.

In fact, some reports on the pandemic show that many of there were not only a lack of hospitals but also of treatment drugs as it was hard for countries to focus on the development of medicine and vaccine for H1N1 and safeguard themselves due to the war at the same time.

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As a consequence, the flu affected more than one hundred million people around the world and has been estimated to be the cause of around fifty million deaths. These figures are much more than the number of deaths caused by World War I itself.

However, it can easily be established that the high number of deaths caused by the Spanish flu pandemic was not the cause for the end of World War II, which occurred several years later than the first world war as said by the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

During a recent press conference, Trump stated that “The closest thing [to Covid-19] is in 1917, they say, the great pandemic. It certainly was a terrible thing where they lost anywhere from 50 to 100 million people, probably ended the Second World War. All the soldiers were sick. It was a terrible situation.”

Prior to the recent comment, the president is notorious for similar historically inaccurate statements. For instance, Trump had reportedly lauded American revolutionary armies for capturing ‘British airports’ during the war of independence in the eighteenth century. Airplanes and airports were invented decades later after the war of 1775-83 in the nineteenth century in 1903.

Read more about Spanish flu here. 

Although some people may argue that the president meant to talk about the first world war and not the second, it still cannot be said that the Spanish flu pandemic was the reason the war ended.

While historians agree that the flu was responsible for the cause of the deaths of thousands of soldiers, the extent of the impact of the pandemic on the battle is still not known.

A paper from 2014 argues that even though the flu cause fatalities and delays, the “effects of 1918 pandemic influenza in purely military terms were probably minimal, even during the second wave.”

So, it can be said that there is no evidence to show that the pandemic is what ended the first or the second world wars.

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