The Hong Kong Flu
In this article, I will highlight a few curious parallels between the 1968 Hong Kong Flu and the current – Great Corona Pandemic of 2019-2020.
What was the Hong Kong Flu?
As per its namesake, Hong Kong Flu emerged in Hong Kong and is said to spread worldwide, lasting from 1968 to 1970, with an estimated 1-4 millions deaths attributed to it. (Source: Britanica.com). It emerged in two waves, with the second wave said to have caused more deaths than the first wave.
There were differences in its effects on countries. For example, in Japan the Hong Kong Flu affected a smaller number of people, but it was more widespread in the USA. The symptoms were of a typical influenza infection – chills, fever, muscle pain and weakness. Symptoms lasted from 4 to 6 days. The highest mortality rates again were in the very young and the elderly. A vaccine was created, but only became available after the peak of the pandemic.
It is worth mentioning that only 10 years prior, there was also the 1957 Asian Flu Pandemic. A curious ten year gap between the two pandemics. Again that started in Hong Kong and spread around the world. So here we go…
Some similarities between Corona and the Hong Kong Flu:
1) Both started in Hong Kong/China
Yes, I know that China and Hong Kong are separate countries with different languages and cultures, though it is more or less the same region. It once was one country during the Qin dynasty (221–206BC), and may become one country once again. And a unification may have been underway, if not for the Hong Kong riots of 2019, which the government could not suppress. Taking a cynical standpoint, it was quite helpful for the Hong Kong government to suddenly have a great big virus appear, enabling them to shut down all these protests in one swoop.
You do have to wonder why China/Hong Kong/Asia is a hotbed of viruses. Is it really because they like wet-food markets and eat bats? If so, how is it that anyone has survived up to now? Surely China should have become another Easter Island by now.
2) Possible prior warnings given by a doctor in both pandemics
In 2020, the western media covered a story of a Chinese doctor whistleblower called Li Wenliang, who warned the world of this new virus emerging in Wuhan, published on a social media site called Weibo. He was warned by the government to stop spreading false rumours. He then came down with symptoms. He tested negatively a few times till eventually testing positive and then died.
He does have a rather intense stare at the camera, when taking his own picture. I dare you to try and take a selfie of yourself whilst intensely staring at the camera. How does it feel? Does it seem natural to you?
Then I saw this newspaper clipping from 1968 and I thought deja vu. This Headline reads: “Hong kong doctor alerted world”. Unfortunately I can’t get a clear image of the text:
3) Use of Masks encouraged, though more so in 2020
It used to be seen as a quirk of the Chinese and Japanese wearing face masks and Westerners would make fun of them. So I was really surprised to see people wearing face masks on the street on London streets. Now everyone is wearing them. I even saw a supermarket worker wearing a visor.
Mask wearing may have happened in 1968, but I don’t think it was very common. There is this clip from 1968. The text reads:
Masks to Stop Flu
Atlanta, Jan 3. About 1000 University of Florida students will wear surgical masks on the campus this month in an effort to combat an expected outbreak of Hong Kong flu…
I did ask my father about the Hong Kong Flu. He was a young man at the time. I asked him whether people were wearing masks at the time but he said he did not remember anyone wearing masks.
He also said, – ‘if you take a picture of a few people wearing masks and then people see that later, they might think that everyone was wearing masks at the time’.
Zoo or seaworld mammal susceptible, but not birds in the sky
So in 2020, bizarrely we had stories of zoo animals becoming infected with corona. For example, a tiger at the Bronx zoo called Nadia tested positive for Corona. A further 6 cats had symptoms.
And then in 1968, was this headline: “Even Whales Catch HK Flu”:
San Diego, Saturday. Three whales at the Sea World aquarium came down with the Hong Kong flu yesterday and had to be dosed with antibiotic pills concealed in mackeral.
Dr David Kenney, veterinarian for Sea World, said the three – Shamu, Kilroy and Bamu – were sluggish and grumpy, The whales, which are mammals and subject to the same disease as humans, had blood samples taken which showed a flu virus.
Dr Kenney said Ramu had the worst case and was getting 375 pills every six hours – UPL.
So then if Corona can spread from animals (bats) to humans and then back to animals again (tigers), logically, we should assume that pet dogs and especially cats are at risk.
And yes, there were reports of pet dogs and cats getting Corona. But apparently it was not severe in pets and also the media did not hammer this fear too much, otherwise, we’d have a whole new market for dog masks. Oh wait…. We do.
By the way, did you ever wonder why zoo animals/sea mammals getting the flu (but not birds in the sky) seems to make the headlines, despite how bizarre it sounds..?
It’s so they can shut the zoos.
Johnson and Johnson: The two Johnsons
By strange coincidence President Lyndon B. Johnson of the USA in 1968 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK in 2020 both succumbed to the virus and needed to go to hospital.
The clip above reads:
Johnson is Recovering
Washington Dec 19. President Johnson remained in hospital today recovering from an apparent attack of Hong Kong influenza now sweeping through the United States. The 60 year old President was admitted to the Beth.. Naval Hospital yesterday with a temperature of …. (can’t make out the rest)
Then in 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, went into intensive care with severe symptoms. Fortunately, he survived and that week, along with the usual ‘Clap for Carers’ – (a weekly event on Thursday at 8pm, where households would clap or bang pots and pans from open windows or on their doorstep in honour of frontline healthcare workers), instead a ‘Clap for Boris’ was organised. Though it did not seem to be as popular.
The Dreaded Image of Corona
Finally, Did you ever wonder where they might have gotten the image of the dreaded corona virus from?
Here is an image of the H3N2 strain, said to be the cause of Hong Kong Flu (taken from Wikipedia), magnified 100,000 times:
And here’s the Corona virus image:
Both look very similar, The Corona image, which I assume is computer generated, is polished and more sinister looking.
So basically, it’s a round ball with little sucker-like protrusions sticking out of it and looks creepy. The perfect villain. But then again they do kind of remind me of the Tribbles ( the furry like creature) in Star Trek, which are not so creepy. In fact they are cute pet like, otherwise Lt Uhura wouldn’t have brought one on board the Enterprise
Perhaps they are not actually tentacles. Instead, it is a kind of fur. Would that make corona virus less scary or more?
Hong Kong Flu – never heard of it.
So if this was such a big pandemic back in the 60s and 70s, why had I never heard of it until I came across it by accident? I asked my father about it, and he recalled it, but it did not leave a big impression in his memory.
I certainly never heard of it in from my mother. No one seems to talk about it. My school history text books always had a short mention of the Spanish Flu, but never the Hong Flu.
Fortunately a few people around the world do recall the Hong Kong Flu and also the difference in attitudes back then compared to now. Here are some examples:
- The Forgotten Hong Kong Flu Virus of 1968 has lessons for today: Article in National Review.com
- Momento Mori: Unpopular thoughts on Corona Virus
- Or this perspective of the 1957 Aisan Flu by MickyD1026 YouTube Channel:
The human rights activist, Craig Murray of Mori Momento wrote this about the attitudes towards the Hong Kong Flu compared to today:
There was no massive panic, no second by second media hysteria, over Hong Kong flu. Let me start being unpopular. “Man in his 80’s already not very well from previous conditions, dies of flu” is not and should not be a news headline. The coverage is prurient, intrusive, unbalanced and designed to cause hysteria..
What worries me about the current reaction to coronavirus, is that it seems to reflect a belief that death is an aberration, rather than a part of the natural order of things. As the human species continues to expand massively in numbers, and as it continues casually to make other species extinct, it is inevitable that the excessive and crowded human population will become susceptible to disease.
Heck, back then they even had musicans and reggae bands making songs about Hong Kong Flu. Way way better than the TikTok Dance videos in 2020.
By the way, the B side of the single Hong Kong Flu, shown above by the Ethiopians is a song called ‘Everything Crash’!! Wow, prescient or what? First you have the flu, and then next you have the economic crash.
These Lyrics in Robb Jarmain’s song above – Hong Kong Flu, would probably be considered racist today.
I’m telling you, you’ve got the Hong Kong Flu
Everybody’s got it, even Fu Man Chu
There is of course one notable difference between these two pandemics; In 1968, the whole world was not placed under house arrest into a prison-like ‘lockdown’, simultaneously destroying millions of jobs, livelihoods and the economy.
But here in Hong flu, we do see a model, a pattern. Writing this in April 2020, can we expect a second wave of Corona, possibly in autumn or winter, just in time for the usual flu season? Will that second wave have an even higher death count attributed to it, just like the Hong Kong Flu’s second wave? Will be see lockdown again over Christmas effectively shutting down Churches again in time for Christmas – the same way Easter was shut down in 2020? These are just speculations. If this is the case, I would recommend that people continue to stock on long-life foods, Turkey, Macdonalds, and dare I say it – toilet paper. I also recommend that people get torches and other emergency supplies.
Corona does not need to come back each year now. Only the fear of it does to change society. It may, even be like the eerie Sylvia Browne prediction, from ‘End of Days‘ where the Corona pandemic appeared in 2020, causing a “severe pneumonia-like illness” and then suddenly disappears, only to reappear in another ten years time; enabling the next set of lockdowns, stringent measures and other changes to society. By then the so called ‘New Normal‘ will become the ‘New New New New New New Normal’.
All the newspaper clippings of 1968 headlines came from this collage on the South China Morning Post Website:
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