Today’s medical technologies are infinitely more advanced than they were a century ago. During the 1918 pandemic, medical researchers were debating whether the disease was viral or bacterial. Doctors didn’t yet know influenza viruses existed. Without tests or vaccines, there was limited ability to prevent or contain the spread.
There were few treatment options for those who developed pneumonia, a common complication: Antibiotics were still years away, and mechanical ventilation wasn’t available.
Today’s innovations allow us to rapidly detect outbreaks, inoculate large numbers of people and better treat severely ill patients. Scientists were able to sequence the COVID-19 genome within seven weeks of the first reported hospitalized case in Wuhan, China, enabling rapid development of tests and identification of possible targets for treatments and vaccines.