Strict isolation helped cut death rates during 1918 flu pandemic, research shows

Cities that adopted broad isolation and prevention measures early, including banning mass gatherings, experienced lower disease and death rates during the 1918 influenza pandemic, according to new research.

Stefan E. Pambuccian, MD, a vice chair of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill., reviewed published data and research from three papers dating to the 1918 flu pandemic, which sickened 500 million people and killed 50 million worldwide. In the U.S., the pandemic killed 675,000.

According to Dr. Pambuccian's analysis, cities that were early adopters of isolation and prevention measures, such as closing of schools and churches, banning of mass gatherings, mandating mask-wearing and isolating confirmed cases, had lower disease and death rates, compared to cities that were not.

The cities that adopted those measures early included San Francisco, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Kansas City, which collectively had 30 percent to 50 percent lower disease and death rates than cities that enacted fewer restrictions or implemented them later.

"The stricter the isolation policies, the lower the mortality rate," said Dr. Pambuccian.

Dr. Pambuccian published his research in the Journal of the American Society of Cytopathology.

More articles on public health:
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COVID-19 vs. SARS: How the outbreaks compare
10 countries with most COVID-19 cases, deaths


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