The severity of the current viral outbreak can best be characterized using past examples. A person infected with the seasonal flu is expected to infect around 1.3 people. A person infected with the Spanish flu passed the virus to another 1.8 people on average. Those currently infected with covid-19 are expected to pass the virus to at least two more people. That means covid-19 is more contagious than the seasonal flu and one of the deadliest pandemics the world has ever known.
A person infected with the seasonal flu has about a .1 percent chance of dying, on average. But the virus affected older victims adversely. A person infected with covid-19 has about a 2 percent chance of dying, on average (so far). A person who was infected with the Spanish flu had about a 2.5 percent chance of dying, on average. Which two outbreaks seem most closely related so far?
The seasonal flu kills around 675,000 people each year. The Spanish flu killed between 20 and 50 million people during the pandemic, which lasted more than one season. The current outbreak of covid-19 has only killed slightly over 8,000 people — but it’s only just getting started.
Governments are taking drastic measures not because they are overreacting, but because they’re finally starting to learn and understand this virus’s potential.
Of course, it’s interesting to understand what Native Americans are feeling when they hear about this outbreak. After all, the epidemic that occurred when settlers pushed west into the New World wiped out 90 percent of the Native American population.
School officials in the region know that several people who have been in contact with a covid-19 victim were in the school recently.
Marty Indian School on Yankton Sioux Tribe’s South Dakota reservation has shut down. Superintendent John Beheler said, “We’ll have to start looking at relational ties to the individual and if there are any relatives in attendance in our school.”
He added, “Demographically, we have a situation here that a lot of our kids live with elders and their grandparents, and so we have to take these precautionary measures.”
Sometimes, Native American communities can be left out when financial support is passed by Congress. Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) has requested assurance from Vice President Mike Pence that tribal leaders are not excluded from the bipartisan deal expected from Congress this week or next. The deal should provide immediate relief to many Americans adversely impacted by the outbreak — and hopefully to many Native Americans, too.