I am currently listening to a historical YA called In the Shadow of Blackbirds written by Cat Winters. It is a historical novel with paranormal elements; spiritualism and spirit photography, set in October 1918 during WWI and the Spanish flu.
The Spanish Flu was very contagious and often the outcome was deadly. The disease killed about 5 percent of the world's population. In the Shadow of Blackbirds some numbers were mentioned putting it into perspective:
They buried their gauze-covered noses in the San Diego Union, and one of them felt the need to read the October influenza death tolls out loud. "Philadelphia: over eleven thousand dead and counting - just this month. Holy Moses! Boston: for thousand dead." The use of cold statistics to describe the loss of precious lives made me ill. I crossed my fingers and hoped that Portland wasn't a big enough city to mention. Hearing the death toll up there - worrying about my father in that crowded jail - would have probably killed me. "New York: eight hundred and fifty-one in just one day - eight hundred and fifty-one! Can you believe that?"
851, 851, 851 - that is a lot of people, so many destinies, so many loved ones being left behind in a difficult situation and grieving. 851 was, according to le Internet, the record for an American city - a record I am guessing no city would ever like to be the holder of.
In 2014 we have diseases spreading and killing a lot of innocent people, some in areas where culture and traditions makes the spreading of the disease worse. The difference from the past is that in 2014 we have easy access to fast communication and transport. The medical expertise of the world can work together in a very different way to get important information across, to share findings and other information from their research. We have internet, we have telephone and we still have snailmail to name a few important tools for communication. A great many of the world inhabitants are being told about the importance of simple hygienic measures such as just washing ones hands properly. In 1918 one might be informed that eating a lot of onions anding keep raw potatoes in ones pocket might help prevent the disease.