With the current Corvid-19 pandemic sweeping the world, this isn't the first time people have been anxious and concerned. My great grandparents both died in the Spanish flu epidemic of the early 20th Century. Here is a newspaper article from May 1919 about the Spanish Flu pandemic that swept the world back in the early 1900's. There are some interesting parallels with today's situation and shows the uncertainty, advice and understanding at the time. I'm not sure I'd recommend all of the remedies suggested, but some still ring true today!
(I have included a transcript below that is easier to read).
INFLUENZA PUZZLING DOCTORS
Everything that doctors know about influenza was told at a conference on "Influenza, and its Prevention" held yesterday at the Institute of Hygiene, Devonshire street London (reports the London "Daily Mail ref March 1).
The impression left on the mind of a listener was that we are still helpless against the mysterious organism which is claiming so many victims from our vigorous manhood.Why are we helpless? We do not know what it is that causes influenza and the speakers were unanimous that until the causative organism is discovered by research nothing effective can be done. And research is starved by the Government.
The chairman, Sir Malcolm Morris, the distinguished skin specialist, said there was an enormous difference of opinion among those to whom the public looked for advice.
"Influenza cannot be due to climate, for while we have it here in the winter it is just as bad in Australia, where there is summer." He doubted if it were a crowd disease. It had occurred in farms where there was no crowding. Last summer the employees of the "tube" scarcely suffered at all, while omnibus conductors, working in the open air were badly attacked. The Local Government Board advised us to keep fit but the fit had been affected most severely.
Good Manners and Influenza
Sir Malcolm regarded the use cf per-manganate of potassium solution, recommended so constantly, as a horrid remedy, and in its place he advised the use of a solution of colloidal silver, which does not irritate or stain the skin.
"It is possible, but not likely, that infection is caused by food and drink," said Sir St. Clair Thomson, the great throat disease specialist. "Infection is splashed out upon us by people talking, coughing, sneezing, when within a distance of ten feet. Such people 'should be isolated and attendants on them should wear veils."
He also urged the revival of good manners. People coughing in a public place should place the hand or a handkerchief
over the month or be prosecuted for indecency. The fallacy of immunity by keeping fit was shown by what happened in a
ship coming from one of the Dominions, in which 60 fine and fit young men died, while the elderly doctors and nurses escaped altogether. In a sanatorium to which he was attached the consumptive patients suffered only mild attacks, while the healthy
Attendants were severely affected.
There was no more reason for a healthy person to wash his nose than to wash his eyes. "A monkey gets on very well with-
out either washing or blowing his nose." He was opposed to the use of permanganate of potassium, but the nose, which
was overworked by civilised conditions, should if necessary be cleared by warm solution of salt, soda, or borax.
The great value of vaccines was emphasised by Dr. Carnegie Dickson, who has studied influenza from the pathological
point of view. He said we must first get hold of the organism and inquire into the habit before we can fight it. The great
danger of chronic carriers of influenza, who do not suffer themselves, was insisted on by this speaker. They distribute the infection wherever they go.
Spread by Carriers
Another-speaker said epidemics of influenza arose from those chronic carriers.
An important point urged by Dr. Dickson was that, inoculation.with a mixed vaccine is a real protection, and it should be
used for healthy people exposed to infection. After making over 3,000 injections of vaccine, he was convinced of its success
against pneumonia and other complications of influenza.
Maintaining physical vigour at the highest possible degree is the best protection in the opinion of Dr. Hector Mackenzie.
One of the physicians of the Brompton Hospital for Consumption. Everyone should eat plenty of nourishing food. Alcohol was not necessary for healthy people, and the money would be better spent on food and warm clothing. The only drug of any preventive value was quinine.
A recipe for keeping fit was given by Dr. Murray Leslie. It is to have a good breakfast, and a brisk walk before starting the
day's work. A curious fact was stated by this speaker that a vaccine prepared from cases of the October epidemic was not so effectual at present as one prepared from the February outbreak. "We should have unboiled food every day," Dr Lowe said, "but we can't get it. Hence our strength is lowered. Many of the girls who go to teashops for their luncheon are starved. This condition favours infection. But one of the greatest reasons why we get influenza, is that we do not breathe through the nose."