Unprepared, Part 2

To avoid overloading what was supposed to be a single post, I’m creating a Part 2.

A commentary at American Thinker asks Remember the Hong Kong flu?. The meat of the comment is from another article at The Daily Wire.

[N]o one questioned whether a president should be elected or not because of [a] virus known as the Hong Kong Flu.

In 1968–69, the Hong Kong flu ravaged the world; it wound up killing more than one million people worldwide, over 100,000 of them in the United States. No lockdowns were imposed and people still went to work, albeit lessening bus travel and implementing social distancing and more washing of their hands.

I want to note here that in 1968, the population of the US was 200 million vs the some 329 million it is now. That 100,000 that died in 1968 is the equivalent of some 165,000 today.

The Wall Street Journal explained. “The novel virus triggered a state of emergency in New York City; caused so many deaths in Berlin that corpses were stored in subway tunnels; overwhelmed London’s hospitals; and in some areas of France left half of the workforce bedridden.”

As John Fund notes in National Review, the Hong Kong Flu “was an especially infectious virus that had the ability to mutate and render existing vaccines ineffective[.] … Hundreds of thousands were hospitalized in the U.S. as the disease hit all 50 states by Christmas 1968. Like COVID-19, it was fatal primarily to people older than 65 with preexisting conditions.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica pointed out the highly contagious nature of the disease: “Indeed, within two weeks of its emergence in July in Hong Kong, some 500,000 cases of illness had been reported[.] … The 1968 flu pandemic caused illness of varying degrees of severity in different populations. For example, whereas illness was diffuse and affected only small numbers of people in Japan, it was widespread and deadly in the United States.”

The Hong Kong flu still exists today. The Centers for Disease Control note, “It was first noted in the United States in September 1968[.] … The H3N2 virus continues to circulate worldwide as a seasonal influenza A virus.”

Fund notes that a retired professor of medicine, Philip Snashall, noted in the British Medical Journal that his two-year-old daughter was the first known case of the Hong Kong flu in Europe. He wrote, “How things change. The stock market did not plummet, we were not besieged by the press, men in breathing apparatus did not invade my daughter’s play group.”

Of course, back then, world was being run by people who had experienced the Great Depression, WWII, etc, etc.

Update (20200502): From a Danish newspaper (more below the fold):

According to “senior doctor” Kåre Mølbak of the [Danish] National Serum Institute, [...], worldwide influenza epidemics occur three to four times per century.

Alone in Denmark, the Spanish Flu of 1918 had 14,000 victims. More will perhaps remember the Hong Kong flu of 1969 that sent half of Denmark to recover in bed will an excess death toll of 1300.


Ifølge overlæge Kåre Mølbak, Statens Serum Institut, der skal stå for etableringen af det kommende beredskab, opstår verdesomspændende influenza-epidemier tre til fire gange hvert århundrede.

- Den spanske syge i 1918 kostede 14.000 dødsfald alene i Danmark. Men flere vil kunne huske Hong Kong-influenzaen i 1969, der gjorde halvdelen af danskerne sengeliggende og betød en overdødelighed på 1.300 personer, oplyser Kåre Mølbak.

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