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106-yr-old who was child during Spanish Flu survives COVID-19

By Kunal Dutt
July 06, 2020 07:56 IST
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A centenarian man from Delhi, who was four years old during the 1918 Spanish Flu, has survived COVID-19 and recovered faster than his son, in his 70s, at a dedicated coronavirus facility in Delhi, doctors said.

The 106-year-old patient (name withheld), a resident of Old Delhi, was discharged from the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital recently after recovering, they said.

His wife, son and another family member, who were also infected by the novel coronavirus, have recuperated, the doctors said.


The man was brought to the RGSSH, a dedicated COVID-19 facility of the city government in east Delhi, in mid-April and discharged early May, a senior doctor said.

When asked about the details of his wife and the other family member, the doctor only said, "The 106-year-old man and his son, in his 70s, had recovered at our hospital, but the rest two recuperated at another COVID facility".

Another senior doctor said: "Perhaps, he is the first reported case of COVID-19 in Delhi who also went through the dreaded Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 which like COVID-19 had also ravaged the world."

"And, he not only recovered from COVID-19, he recovered faster than his son, who is also very old," the doctor said.

The Spanish Flu was a pandemic which hit the world 102 years ago, and affected nearly one-third of the global population at that time.

"The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919," according to the Centre for Diseases Control in the United States.

A family member of the centenarian man, who did not wish to be named, said, "At his age of 106, he has defeated coronavirus, and he was a kid during the Spanish Flu. He's a corona warrior, and he's doing fine now".

According to experts, the situation during the Spanish Flu pandemic was very similar to the current COVID-19 situation, with directions issued on social distancing, stay-at-home orders and use of masks bring prescribed.

In the US, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 6,75,000 deaths occurred in America, the CDC said.

According to a World Health Organisation report, the pandemic of 1918-1919 called the Spanish Flu was particularly virulent, and killed an estimated 40 million people worldwide.

In India, the disease is believed to have been brought in by the soldiers returning from World War I conflicts.

The first cases of Spanish Flu were reported in areas which are major ports of entry, such as Mumbai (then Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), Delhi and Chennai (Madras), where a large number of people returned from abroad.

The casualty count in India from the Spanish Flu is believed to be nearly one-fifth of the entire fatalities in the world, though the statistics for mortality in India are too wide-ranging and debatable.

Doctors at the RGSSH were amazed to see the recovery of this centenarian patient from the novel coronavirus, even though he was highly vulnerable to the infection.

The 106-year-old man also had a co-morbid condition of hypertension, but he fought through and survived, the doctors said.

"We don't know whether he was affected by the Spanish Flu or not. We haven't seen much documentation on the situation back then as far as Delhi is concerned, but very few hospitals were there at that time. It is amazing this 106-year-old showed the will power to survive," a senior doctor, who monitored his situation, said.

But, what is more interesting is that he recovered faster than his son. So, he lived through the Spanish Flu and now survived COVID-19. Hence, he lived through two pandemics, he said.

The RGSSH has treated more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients so far.

Delhi recorded 2,244 fresh coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the tally in the city to 99,444, while the death toll from the disease mounted to 3,067, authorities said.

The national capital, at present is the worst-hit city in the country, from the pandemic.

According to the Sunday bulletin, 71,339 patients have recovered, been discharged or migrated so far. In April, a 73-year-old Delhi man with co-morbid conditions had recovered from novel coronavirus infection and doctors had attributed his survival to excellent medical care and the "patient's will power to live".

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Kunal Dutt
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