John Barry, Author of The Great Influenza, Discusses Similarities and Differences Between Coronavirus and the 1918 Pandemic

Friday, May 29, 2020 - This isn't the first pandemic and it won't be the last. What is different today is that we have the power to use technology to adjust our behavior and limit the impact of the virus. John Barry is an expert in the 1918 Pandemic and he offers his views comparing the two pandemics.

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John Barry is the author of the 2004 book The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
John Barry is the author of the 2004 book The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

John Barry is the author of the 2004 book The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, a comprehensive study of the 1918 Influenza pandemic, which has gained a resurgence in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. He has authored two recent OpEds in The New York Times in which he compares the subject of his book with our current health crisis, and enumerates some of the lessons we can learn from that outbreak and apply to our handling of COVID-19, which he discusses today.

Mr. Barry is hesitant to equate the 1918 pandemic with our current outbreak, as the differences are important when comparing how the diseases progress. For one, the overwhelming number of victims of the influenza of 1918 were between the ages of 20 and 40, while a majority of those affected by COVID-19 have been over 65. Additionally, COVID is thought to be much more transmissible than influenza was, but not as deadly. Mr. Barry stresses, though, that two lessons can be learned from the first pandemic: that social distancing does, and clear has, worked. And that honesty and transparency from the federal government are vital, a factor he notes, that has not been valued in the current situation. 

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