Learning from History: Past Pandemics

Learning from History: Past Pandemics


Published Date: April 20, 2020

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — While the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult to navigate, society has been faced with other challenges like this one. Historians keep track of major events like the one we’re going through now.

A pandemic, while it may be new to many, is a word many others have heard before. Museum of the Grand Prairie Director Barb Garvey says one of the first experiences that comes to mind is a smallpox outbreak in 1903. “Smallpox was way more deadly. Three out of 10 people who got smallpox died, so that’s basically a third. Covid is like one percent. The flu is like one-tenth of one percent,” explained Garvey.

One important difference from past pandemics will be how quickly a vaccine is available. For example, it took nearly two centuries for everyone to get vaccinated against smallpox.

Another lesson from history, however, is that we’ve made it through something like this before, and we can do it again.