Two pandemics

Comparing Two Flu Pandemics

The Spanish Fu (H1N1) (SF) was present from 1918 to 1920 when the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) (C-19) started in 2020 and still present at the end of 2021.

SF – 4 waves: spring 1918, fall 1918(with a very contagious variant), spring 1919 and spring 1920. 
C-19 – 4 waves: spring 2020, fall 2020, spring 2021 (with highly contagious variants), fall 2021.

SF – United States; spread to Europe by American soldiers.
C-19 – China; spread by natural transmission from animal to humans, or by an accidental leak of the virus being studied in a laboratory. Note that current studies on the origin of the virus are not conclusive. 

Entry ports in Canada
SF – Halifax, Quebec and Montreal, which are arrival ports for troupes coming from Europe.
C-19 – Travellers from Ontario, British-Columbia, and Quebec coming from abroad either by plane, cruise ships or vehicle. 

Cross-country transmission (Canada)
SF – Through the railway system going from east to west.
C-19 – International and domestic travelling as well as various large gatherings; community spread also an issue. 

Death in Canada
SF – 55,000 persons (plus 60,000 deaths due to World War I of 1914-1918). 
C-19 – 29,056 persons (as of November 2021).

Deaths worldwide
SF – Between 50 to 100 million people. 
C-19 – Over 5 million people.

Age groups most affected
SF –
Young adults between 20 and 40 years of age.
C-19 –
N.B. – Final data not available yet. 

Protection measures
SF – Isolation of sick people; sporadic use of quarantine; public gatherings not permitted; wearing the mask mandatory in public places.
C-19 – Orders change as the situation evolves: isolation of sick people; quarantine mandatory for all travellers entering the country; lockdowns; public gatherings restricted partially or completely; wearing a mask mandatory in public; social distancing and hand sanitizing; virus screening tests; vaccines available to some age groups as of December 2020 and to all adults and teenagers (12-19 years) in 2021. 

SF – No vaccine nor efficient treatment are available.
C-19 – Various treatments at the hospital, according to patient need. 

Effects on the national economy
SF – Paralyzed because of lack of healthy workers; restricted use of Bell telephone services due to lack of operators. 
C-19 – Depending on the waves: closure of several kinds of businesses and of public places; businesses or services considered essential operating at reduced capacity; some forms of financial aid available to workers, businesses and organizations; stock shortages; increased price for certain products. 

Effects on health care services
SF – Health professionals very affected; support visits to sick people provided by volunteers, nurses, paramedical and religious staff. 
C-19 – Burnt out frontline workers, especially in health care; some hospitals operating at fullcapacity have to transfer patients to other hospitals out of the region or even out of the province; staff shortage in certain disciplines. 

Positive outcome(s)
SF – 1919: creation of the federal Department of Health, which allowed sharing of public health responsibilities among all levels of government . 
C-19 –
N.B. – Too early to tell.


The Canadian Encyclopedia: Janice Dickin, Patricia G. Bailey et Erin James-Abru. Influenza (Flu) in Canada., retrieved October 23, 2020.

Government of Canada. COVID-19 daily epidemiology update, retrieved November 3, 2021.

Google. Covid-19 Statistics: New cases and deaths., retrieved November 3, 2021.

Google News: Coronavirus (Covid-19), retrieved June 11, 2021.

Parks Canada Agency, Government of Canada. The Spanish Flu in Canada (1918-1920),, retrieved June 9, 2021.

Canada’s History. Susan Goldenberg. Killer Flu., retrieved October 23, 2020.

La Presse. Mathieu Perreault. Il y a 102 ans, un autre Noël en pandémie,, retrieved December 21, 2020.

CTV News, Montreal. The Canadian Press staff. Gisele Levesque, the first person in Canada to be vaccinated against COVID-19, has died, retrieved July 29, 2021.

World Health Organization. News release (Oct. 13, 2021): WHO Announces Proposed Members of its Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), retrieved November 3, 2021.