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Past Epidemics & Coronavirus / Open Lines

Date Saturday - March 14, 2020
Host Ian Punnett
Guests John BarryCharles PellegrinoOpen Lines

In the first hour, author John Barry joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss the 1918 influenza pandemic and the parallels between it and COVID-19. Barry outlined how the disease spread from animal to human, from America to Europe, and then to the rest of the world. New evidence suggests it may have started in China, like the coronavirus. The first wave of the disease was mild but the second wave turned deadly with horrific symptoms, including bleeding from orifices, turning dark blue from lack of oxygen, and dying in less than 24 hours, he reported.

As with COVID-19, the government was not initially forthcoming about the 1918 pandemic, Barry continued. If the coronavirus spreads with the same lethality as that of the 1918 influenza, two million Americans would die, he estimated. "We are extraordinarily vulnerable to a very, very serious outbreak that we cannot get control of," Barry warned.

Next, author Charles Pellegrino delved into his historical-scientific research on past epidemics and what they could teach us about the coronavirus. When plagues broke out in ancient Rome they led to the collapse of agriculture, the economy, and caused the population to flee the city, he explained. According to Pellegrino, there are indications the new virus is becoming less deadly though it still remains a threat.

Like past viral outbreaks, the coronavirus spreads and evolves very quickly. As an example, he pointed to how a single man in New York spread COVID-19 to 1,100 people. "There's no way it's not going to become part of the normal background radiation of viruses," Pellegrino said. He also spoke about how scientists are often attacked for scientific conclusions the populace may not fully grasp or which goes against their belief systems.

Open Lines followed with many callers phoning in with their thoughts about COVID-19 and the massive disruptions it has caused around the planet.

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