Local professor: What we can learn from past pandemics


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Deadly outbreaks throughout history may offer us some important lessons on how we can deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Medical professionals and university professors from around our area are sharing their knowledge more than ever to the community to help us understand more with what we are facing. 

Professor Timothy Kneeland, chair of the history and political science department at Nazareth College, said the United States has not experienced a pandemic of this magnitude since the flu pandemic, also called Spanish flu, in 1918.

That virus infected about one-third of the world’s population. It killed an estimated 675,000 people in the U.S. — that’s more American deaths during the first and second World Wars.

In 1918, officials took the same steps of closing down areas where many people congregated to stop the spread.

“Isolating them and then tracing who they were in contact was much easier in 1918 to 1919,” Kneeland said. “They shut down cities, not entire states in order to try to isolate that and stop or slow down the spread of it.”

With health officials urging everyone to social distance, Kneeland said it is crucial for the public to follow the protocols. It gives doctors and researchers time to come up with an effective vaccine, since the virus is new and never seen before in the human body. 

“We know that these things come in cycles. We will get a vaccine. We will come up with treatments. It’s just a matter of time — which why flattening the curve, will give us that time. So again we just have to be patient,” Kneeland said.

Kneeland said knowing history helps in these circumstances but also gives us some optimism getting through it. 

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