Influenza pandemic in Siam during World War I: Perspective from COVID-19 situation

  • Sanya Sukpanichnant Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok
Keywords: Influenza pandemic in Siam, World War I, COVID-19, virus, communicable disease

Abstract

Influenza pandemic in Siam during World War I (WWI) is of interest at present due to the current COVID-19 situation as 2.5 million infected people and at least 80,000 deaths were reported locally at that time. Misunderstanding may occur about the Siamese volunteer soldiers who joined WWI in Europe as they might have brought in bad germs into the kingdom. But historical review shows that the outbreak had occurred prior to the return of the soldier troop. Thus, there must be other causes contributing to the introduction of the influenza virus into Bangkok Metropolitan, which was heavily affected at that time, with up to 200,000 out of a total of 500,000 population getting sick and up to 65 deaths were reported in a single day. The outbreak in Siam occurred with the first wave lasting for 2 months (October to November 1918). Initially, it appeared to have been brought under control in December but then it bounced back for another 3 months (January to March 1919)before it disappeared permanently. Historical review for disease investigation is presented with the hope that the lessons learned from the past about the influenza pandemic that killed almost 50 million people around the world will provide knowledge and understanding to cope with the COVID-19 situation at present and other communicable diseases in the future.

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Published
2020-05-25
Section
Review Article