Preview to: THE COVID-19



The major pandemics before 2019.

The term 'Pandemic' has been around since 1851 when it was applied to Cholera at the World Sanitation Conference. The Oxford University maintained that there were 1.4 million deaths from cholera in low income countries. [needs checking]

1851 Note that the World Sanitation Conference was the first in a series of 14 International Sanitary Conferences. The first was organized by the French Government in 1851 to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of cholera, plague, and yellow fever. In total 14 conferences took place from 1851 to 1938 and they led to the formation of the World Health Organization in 1948.

Other epidemic-like viral diseases emerge regularly, but these didn't assume pandemic proportions due to a range of factors. Of course, many in earlier times were not identified as viral, rather than bacterial.

Among the main zoonotic viruses,

  • Marlburg was one of the worse. It was a lethal haemorrhagic disease (88% fatal) and is related to Ebola. It has been known in Germany since 1967. It is believed to be bat-carried but then transmitted human-to-human by direct contact.
  • West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes in the USA. (related to Dengue)
  • Sin Nombre virus in Arizona in 1993. Carried by rodents (probably the deer mouse).
  • Simian Foamy virus in Bali (from Temple monkeys)
  • Henra virus (HeV) in Australia spread from fruit bats to horses, and then sometimes by direct contact to humans. First detected in Brisbane's Hendra suburb in 1994 and other outbreaks in Queensland's coastal towns during various years up to 2016. Not known elsewhere (there is a horse vaccine).

Also note that there was a haemorrhagic fever outbreak in 1996, and a return of polio in Chad in 2009.

The main coronavirus outbreaks in the last century had very different immunological outcomes. The various influenza viruses genomes change rapidly, and so the immunity of the disease and its vaccines only lasts a few months. Also it is now known that immunity to SARS and MERS is now known to have faded in only a couple of years.

Other: In the years between the Spanish Flu and now there have been a number of scares ... claimed outbreaks of various bacterial, viral, and prion diseases which have threatened to become global epidemics. Some have been genuine conditions which were successfully fought by the biomedical researchers, while others were largely figments of fertile imaginations.

Sick Building Syndrome In this last category is Legionaires Disease, which was a relatively rare form of bacterial pneumonia found in water cooling tanks in some of the older high-rise buildings and hotels. The US tobacco industry recognised that this genuine disease could be treated as a scape-goat for office buildings having second-hand smoke problems [known as ETS or Environmental Tobacco Smoke], with the intention of lobbying smokers to block the US Environmental Protection Agency declaring cigarette smoke pollution a "known carcinogen"

The industry paid a small fortune to promote Legionella as a potential international epidemic in order to force office managers/owners to increase the exchange rate of air through ducted HVAC air-conditioning systems. The Arab Oil Shock had caused building owners and occupiers to turn down the air-exchange rate, in order to save heating and cooling costs.

The idea was simple to deflect the identification of indoor air-pollution away from cigarettes onto claimed poor building maintenance. To do this they promoted the idea that a form of 'Sick Building Syndrome' was at epidemic proportions, with the implication it was caused by a bacterial disease circulated via poorly maintained air-conditioning systems.

The HVAC companies who were in on the scam pretended to carry out major cleaning and upgrading, then simply turned up the air-exchange rates. This coincided with the EPA classifying second hand smoke (as a Class A Carcinogen) as a"known potential carcinogen" in late 1989. The scam was backed and directed by the US Tobacco Institute and Philip Morris; it was beaten up by lobbyists and tobacco industry shills.

The scare tactics were very successful when linked to a story about a form of pneumonia later called Legionella which had emerged into public conscious when it spread at an annual meeting of US Legion Veterans. The HVAC maintenance industry solved the claimed problems by simply diluting the second-hand tobacco smog in offices and factories, but to deflect attention away from smokers, they promoting the idea that Legionella was circulating at dangerous epidemic levels in America and elsewhere. [See HBI]


(Animal incubated and transferred)


Spanish Flu

The comparison is regularly made between Corvid-19 and the Spanish Flu, following World War I. These are all closely related to Influenza.

Despite its name, the Spanish Flu coronavirus pandemic has now been traced back to its origination in North America: it is now known that it mutated in Kansas, USA, and spread around the world beginning in 1914; it was carried mainly by front-line soldiers. There were two major later flushes. The second flush at the end of World War 1 was even more deadly than the first.

Spanish flu pandemic lasted about 15 months and is said to have killed 670,000 in the USA. Overall, the WHO calculates that there were 50 million deaths worldwide in 1918-19. The first victims in Australia were in November 1918 shortly after the war had ended.

January 1918

The current review suggests that the most likely site of origin was an army base in Haskell County, Kansas, which is an isolated and sparsely populated county in the southwest corner of the state. [Other sources claim that it was circulating earlier]

Note that, the so-called "Spanish Flu" virus is now believed to be very closely related (virtually identical) to the recent 2009 Swine Flu. Both are labelled 'H1N1'. (followed by the outbreak year ... H1N1/09.

Swine Flu


The 2009 Swine Flu pandemic lasted for about 19 months from January 2009 to August 2010. It was first distinguished as a different strain of Influenza A on April 15th 2009. This is now believed to be a recurrence involving variations of the H1N1 Spanish influenza virus, and it was first reported in these years in North America.

The year from April 2009 to April 2010:

2009 April 18: The US CDC informed the WHO that this was epidemic related to the annual Influenza, but much more virulent. It differed from the COVID-19 virus in attacking primarily young children and adults under 65. The older people in the community presumably had some immunity to Swine Flu.

A small number of healthy people infected with the virus still developed pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which manifests itself as increased breathing difficulty. So deaths were often registered as pneumonia. [Note that the pneumonia caused by flu can be either direct viral pneumonia and/or a secondary bacterial pneumonia (one after the other) so treatment involves both antivirals and antibiotics.]

It is also given the name 'Mexican Flu' and a range of other terms, but the disease has no association either with Mexico or pigs, other than rumours about its origin. It is not transmitted by eating pork.

This type of blame-naming is typical of authorities trying to deflect blame for their inaction in times of adversity onto others. This practice can be dated back the 'witches evil-eye' days of European and American fundamentalism.

2009 April 28: The CDC produced a test for Swine Flu only 10 days after notifying the WHO.

The global deaths from the 2009 swine flu pandemic are quoted vaguely as anywhere between 18,000 (the lab-confirmed number reported to the WHO) and 284,500. [The high number may well be a later beat-up by Trump supporters trying to claim that the Obama administration deliberately undercounted the deaths.]

2009 June 11: The WHO declared this to be a pandemic.[Global threat]

2009 Oct 5: The USA began administering a new vaccine on trial. These vaccination trials were an extension of the vaccinations produced for the annual Influenza and the proved to be successful. The rate of vaccination was stepped up in December.

2010 August 10: The WHO declared the pandemic to be at an end.

The CDC has recently estimated that Swine Flu caused 60.8 million illnesses, 273,000 hospitalisations, and 12,469 deaths.

SARS, MERS, etc.

Immediately before the 2019 Covid-19 pandemic there were a couple of closely related virus epidemics which threatened to have global implications. These triggered many of the experts to expect other potential viral pandemics, but their message or potential global problems doesn't appear to have got through to most politicians around the world.

The two most relevant were closely related coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, both emerged from Asia (probably China).

SARS - Severe acute respiratory syndrome. [Also known as H5N1 and later as CoV-1]



The coronavirus known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) was first detected in China in 2003, but only traced back to the first human infection in Guangdong province of South China much later.

We now know that SARS arose in South China in late 2002 and was first reported in 2003. More than 8000 probable SARS cases before July 2003 (WHO reports in 29 different countries). It eventually killed people in Singapore and Toronto, Canada. The USA had only 8 laboratory-confirmed cases,

Overall they now figure that 8,422 people were infected by what is an atypical form of pneumonia, and 105 died (also said to be between 1% for young, and 11% for average, and 55% for the elderly) - overall, nearly 10%. It had flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle pain, lethargy, cough, sore throat, and a fever above 38 °C (100 °F).

It had a relatively short incubation period (4-6 days -- but also possible 2-10 days) leading to acute respiratory infections, and sometimes produced direct viral pneumonia or a secondary bacterial pneumonia.

27th: The international medical community became aware of SARS as a novel flu variant on 27 Nov 2002. The WHO's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) had picked up a report from the Canadians, but the report wasn't translated and released in English until 21 Jan 2003.

In 2017, Chinese scientists claimed to have traced the virus through the intermediary of Asian palm civets to cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan province. This has since been disputed.


5 - 11 The WHO requested information from the Chinese about the outbreak of what was believed to be an epidemic of a novel flu virus. There was a break down in the normal alert system, and no information was conveyed to the WHO.



The English language reports among the global epidemic watchers at this time, were that a novel virus (only later known as SARS) was now circulating in China.

We now know for certain that SARS was circulating in Guangzhou in early 2003 when it was identified in the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital in Guangzhou on 31 January. However the Chinese authorities did not officially inform the WHO of the outbreak of this epidemic disease until February.


February This was the first public reported in Asia. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia

SARS turned out to be highly infectious by both contact and by airborne droplets. Dozens of the Guangzhou hospital's health-care workers caught the disease from a single super-spreader -- who turned out to be a seafood merchant [which gave rise to the idea that all wet-markets were lethal].

During an asymptomatic incubation period the hospital's Dr Liu Jianlun flew to Hong Kong, where he managed to inflect 16 other guests on the 9th floor of the Metropole Hotel in Kowloon.

Another spreader from Guangzhou was an elderly guest, Kwan Sui-Chu, a Canadian citizen attending a Singapore wedding. She died on 5 March after unwittingly transmitted the virus to health carers in the hospital ward when she returned to Toronto. Her son also caught the disease (and died) and infected other patients at the Scarborough Grace Hospital.

23 Feb: These Canadian contacts in Ontario eventually spread it to 257 other people over several weeks, and 43 Canadians died. The virulence of the disease had not at this time registered sufficiently with the medical authorities, and so precautions weren't being taken

Also at this time an American businessman flying from China to Singapore became very sick, and he was offloaded in Hanoi where he died in the Hanoi French Hospital. Several of the hospital's medical staff also developed the disease. It was reported to both the WHO and Vietnamese government by the Italian doctor, Carlo Urbani, who himself died shortly after. The fact that an American died brought it to US attention.

Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia


12-15 March: The WHO issued a global alert, as did the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WHO's network of 11 top laboratories were busy trying to zero in on the cause of SARS and develop a diagnostic test.

The WHO registered 150 new 'novel' cornoavirus cases outside China and gave the disease virus the label of 'CoV1' to distinguish it from the flu varieties. It killed more males than females.

Symptoms were influenza-like: fever, malaise, myalgia, headache, diarrhoea, and shivering (rigors). However no individual symptom or cluster of symptoms proved to be specific for a diagnosis, although fever is the most frequently reported symptom. Cough (initially dry) after about 2-7 days, shortness of breath, and diarrhoea (10-20% only) are present in the first and/or second week of illness.

Severe cases often evolve rapidly, progressing to respiratory distress and requiring intensive care. Fever is sometimes absent on initial measurement, especially in elderly and immunosuppressed patients, but later rises to a high level (>38 degrees C).

15th: The World Health Organisation's a global alert described symptoms as influenza-like: fever, malaise, myalgia, headache, diarrhoea, and shivering (rigors). However no individual symptom or cluster of symptoms proved to be specific for a diagnosis, although fever is the most frequently reported symptom.

Cough (initially dry) after about 2-7 days, shortness of breath, and diarrhoea (10-20% only) are present in the first and/or second week of illness. Severe cases often evolve rapidly, progressing to respiratory distress and requiring intensive care. Fever is sometimes absent on initial measurement, especially in elderly and immunosuppressed patients, but later rises to a high level (>38 degrees C).

27 March: Singapore closed schools and introduced contact tracing. It was still a relatively rare disease, mainly confined to South East Asia.


This was the peak of the SARS epidemic, mainly in China itself, and also in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam.

During these months the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory and the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) worked on establishing the identification of the SARS genome. This allowed guaranteed identification of the virus.



A prominent physician, Jiang Yanyong, pushed to report the danger to China, and the Chinese authorities began to release information. The WHO issued an alert but by this time there were at least 2000 cases outside China and 500 deaths overall. Jiang Yanyong accused the authorities of undercounting cases in Beijing military hospitals.

30th: For four weeks the WHO has been tracking SARS. Much has been learned because scientists, clinicians, laboratory chiefs and public health officials everywhere have collaborated closely. National authorities have implemented heightened surveillance for cases of SARS and an increasing number of countries are reporting new cases. It was now known that infection control methods work to contain the spread of SARS in hospitals, even in countries which do not have the most modern equipment, so these cases are quickly identified, patients are isolated and local transmission is stopped in most countries. The agent causing SARS was not fully characterized and there was no certain treatment, vaccine or known effective preventative measure.

National authorities have implemented heightened surveillance for cases of SARS and an increasing number of countries are reporting new cases. It is now known that infection control methods work to contain the spread of SARS in hospitals, even in countries which do not have the most modern equipment, so these cases are quickly identified, patients are isolated and local transmission is stopped in most countries.

The agent causing SARS had not been fully characterized and there is no certain treatment, vaccine or known other preventative measure.

The SARS virus travelled in humans to 30 countries and areas of the world from Guangdong province in China. It became deeply embedded in just six - the last being Taiwan.


A total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak, and of these, 774 died. In the USA, only eight cases had laboratory evidence of having had a SARS-CoV infection, and all of these victims had traveled to other parts of the world where SARS was spreading. This low incidence of SARS in America created a false sense of complacency during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.


By early this month, chains of human-to-human transmission had been detected in Toronto (Canada), Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Hanoi in Vietnam. The US epidemiologists now added SARS to the list of notifiable diseases.

15th: Taiwan: There has been 20 days (two consecutive 10-day incubation periods) since the last case was detected in Taiwan, which had been subject to a very strong and prolonged attacks.


It is now known that the primary form of SARS transmission is person-to-person, with the spreader being especially infectious during the second week of illness. [Note: This is now 5 months after initial detection]

In SARS-affected areas approximately 20% of all cases were among health care workers or others in the hospital. Before July of this year, 8439 people had been affected, and 812 have died from SARS, and about 200 remained hospitalised. The epidemic was brought to its end primarily by infection control precautions and practices.

5th: The WHO removed Taiwan from the list of SARS countries - signalling that the human chains of SARS virus transmission appears to be broken everywhere.

They still did not have a early diagnostic test for SARS, so it was often being confused with the flu. They believe that there is a possible animal reservoir of the disease, but did not understood how the virus moves from the original sources to humans.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO says:

"SARS is a warning. SARS pushed even the most advanced public health systems to the breaking point. Those protections held, but just barely. Next time, we may not be so lucky. We have an opportunity now, and we see the need clearly, to rebuild our public health protections. They will be needed for the next global outbreak, if it is SARS or another new infection."


3rd: The US epidemiologist issued a new "interim position statement, with a revised SARS case definition. They began reporting cases of SARS worldwide and in the USA.


SARS-CoV is now thought to be an animal virus from an as-yet-uncertain animal reservoir [perhaps bats] that spread to other animals (possibly civet cats).

With the arrival of COVID-19 there are questions about China's early failures with SARS:

  • A refusal to close wildlife wet markets after the SARS epidemic in 2003.
  • The failure to confine the SARs virus locally, early [before 2003];
  • Beijing's abrasive dealings with the World Health Organisation in the critical weeks that followed.

[NOTE: Without refrigeration, many Chinese must buy fresh food daily from (often open air) fresh food markets rather than supermarkets. The term 'wet market' is vague and refers to marketplaces (including fish and meat) of any kind which are hosed down at nights. Only some of these market sell wildlife such as bats, etc. However most sell beef, pork, and fish, and they do this without refrigeration even in hot weather.



The WHO was still issuing guidelines for continued surveillance of SARS.

SARS was long thought to have been passed to humans via a chain consisting of bats and civet cars in a wild-animal market in Wuhan. This is now known to be incorrect: it was a guess based on incorrect time-line information. SARS was probably a bat-carried virus, but its route to humans is now determined to be uncertain.


Swine Flu Reappeared: This was now known to be a form of Influenza, and it reappeared as a serious epidemic (later Pandemic) in this year. It is classed as a form of Type B Influenza -- which caused some complacency initially. However it became a notifiable pandemic in 2009, and it ended up killing somewhere between 151,000 and 575,000 people worldwide. About 12,400 of these deaths were in the USA, and somewhere near 100+ deaths were in Australia.

Influenza Type A regularly kills people worldwide at close to these levels (18,000 to 46,000 in USA), but usually those sacrificed are the enfeebled elderly, and it arrives on a seasonal basis.

Both types of Influenza are preventable with vaccination, but they need to be updated on an annual basis with a genetically engineered injection because of the viral mutations that regularly occur.


Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)

MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and eventually turned up in 27 other countries (10 in the Middle east). It is a zoonotic virus (animals-to-people) and believed to have come from the major reservoir of the dromedary camel.

Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Some laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection are reported as asymptomatic, meaning that they do not show any clinical evidence of symptoms, yet they prove positive for MERS-CoV infection in a laboratory test. Most asymptomatic cases have been detected through contact-tracing of laboratory-confirmed cases.

Most of the person-to-person transmissions appear to be with health-care workers unprotected at the time of close physical contact. Overall there were 2,500 confirmed cases. Approximately 35% of reported patients with MERS-CoV infection died. Only two from the USA ever tested positive for MERS,

2014 - 2019 - present



Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (EHF), is a rare but severe, often fatal (50%) illness in humans which has a history of recurrence. There was a serious outbreak in Africa in 1979, followed by one in 2014 and one in 2019. It is difficult to clinically distinguish EVD at an early stage from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis, and the genome transforms fairly regularly so it reappears in a different form. It is viral, but not a member of the coronavirus group; however it is known to be distributed by fruit bats.

It surfaced recently in the 2014-16 period in West Africa. In 2014 the Obama Administration led a group of countries who put $3.9 billion (half from the USA) into a relief fund, The USA also sent in the 101st Airborne Division to build hospitals. The Chines, who had a business presence in West Africa, also mounted a humanitarian response sending medical teams and supplies.

Ebola is reasonably infectious human-to-human (mainly requiring physical contact), and also spreads via the bodily fluids of infected wild-life such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope or porcupines, found in the rainforest areas.

August-October About 10,000 Chinese working in Africa fled back to China. However within 6 months the joint effort had the Ebola outbreak under control (but not eliminated).

[Note: The 2019 outbreak of Ebola was relatively mild and mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.




    February 19th: The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes a total fool of himself by brandishing a large lump of coal in the Parliament, trying to make the point that economic protection of the coal industry was more important than any threat of climate change. It was the peak of the anti-science political movement among the neo-liberals and libertarians of Australia's political right. Australia was in a prolonged period of drought and about to go through a series of disastrous bushfires.


    Following the Swine Flu outbreak, President Donald Trump dismantled the US pandemic response center created under the Obama administration as now being unnecessary.

The Main Covid-19 Timeline

Stewart A. Fist

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