In case you haven't heard, we have an outbreak of the coronavirus and it is a pandemic. If we didn't already know what a pandemic is, we have been informed many times lately, that it is an epidemic occurring worldwide, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.

President Trump has held meetings and has appeared on every TV station, in place of regular programs, to tell us not to travel to certain countries that have the virus. Stay off buses, cruise ships and planes. Stay out of crowds and always wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Some people still do not believe it is real and want to visit anyway, but I am firm and don't want to take any chances. When they say they are not afraid of anything, I can not believe they have watched the news and feel it is OK to be brave (?), when the germ or virus is traveling all around the world. I would rather be patient and not catch, or spread, this unknown monster of a virus. If we are careful, this, too,will pass.

Maybe it is because we haven't seen it quite like this before, except perhaps in 2009 ( the H1N1), and that was not quite so wide-spread. Common sense tells us to give up a little social life and help prevent spreading something that many people will be very sick from and some will die. Well, it is around now and everyone is told to stay out of crowds. Our social life has come to a halt, but who would want to spread it? No more going to church. No more football, baseball or basketball big league games. No more shows, movies and no visitors. Most people are fine with that, as a little prevention helps a great deal.

We are supposed to learn from past experiences which we have had, but how easily we forget, even though it quite often hits home, or close to home.

It was during World War I in 1918, that many young people were sick and dying of the “Spanish Flu.” It was the H1N1 virus and it became a pandemic, caused by that virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In our country, it was first identified in military personnel in the spring of 1918. One third of the world's population became infected with the virus. It was estimated that 50 million deaths occurred worldwide, with about 675,000 in the United States. My mother and her brother, Salim, had fruit and candy stores in Camden and both contracted the dread disease from working with the public. My mother survived but Uncle Salim died at age 22. It seemed to hit children under five years of age and the 20- through 40-year age group. That H1N1 virus was not understood and there was no vaccine to protect against influenza infection. There were no antibiotics. The treatment was then only isolation, quarantine and good personal hygiene, as well as limited public gatherings. (Does that sound familiar?) It was the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century. The CDC studied its secrets to be better prepared for future pandemics. It was called the “Spanish Flu.” Why? Because Spain was the first to report it and also the Spanish King fell victim to the flu. The Spanish people called it “Soldier of Naples” after a song in a Spanish operetta, and it caught on “like the flu.”

In the spring of 2009, there was the H1N1 Pandemic (H1N1pdmo9 virus), which started in the U.S., quickly spread in this country and in the world. The new H1N1 virus contained a combination of influenza genes, not previously identified in people. Ten years later, work continued, to better understand influenza. Since it was different from circulating viruses, vaccination with flu vaccines offered little protection and the one produced was not available in large quantities until late November 2009. This was after the second wave had come and gone in the U.S. From April 2009 to April 2010 there were 60.8 million cases and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. My cousin in Beirut, Lebanon, had a son named for our Uncle Salim, and he died with this H1N1 flu at the same age of 22 as our uncle had in 1918. Sixty% of the deaths related to that virus hit mostly people 65 years and older. But many infected were children and young people.

It takes only a little patience and, as I said before, “This, too, shall pass.” And remember, we are all in this together.