A 1889 “Flu” Similar to SARS-CoV-2 is Now Under Investigation

In May 1889, people living in Bukhara, a city that was then part of the Russian Empire, began sickening and dying. The respiratory virus that killed them became known as the Russian flu. It swept the world, overwhelming hospitals and killing the old with special ferocity.

Schools and factories were forced to close because so many students and workers were sick. Some of the infected described an odd symptom: a loss of smell and taste. And some of those who recovered reported a lingering exhaustion. The Russian flu finally ended a few years later, after at least three waves of infection.

Its patterns of infection and symptoms have led some virologists and historians of medicine to now wonder: Might the Russian flu actually have been a pandemic driven by a coronavirus? And could its course give us clues about how our pandemic will play out and wind down?

If a coronavirus caused the Russian flu, some believe that pathogen may still be around, its descendants circulating worldwide as one of the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold. If so, it would be different from flu pandemics whose viruses stick around for a while only to be replaced by new variants years later that cause a new pandemic.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/