There Was No Panic In The Similar 1957-58 Pandemic; But Panic Galore For Coronadoom

There Was No Panic In The Similar 1957-58 Pandemic; But Panic Galore For Coronadoom

There is much fun contrasting earlier approaches to pandemics and our Great Global Panic, now entering it’s third—and final?—year.

Let’s take the 1957-1958 Asian (the novel H2N2) flu, the worst of the last century after the Spanish flu. I pick this instead of the Spanish flu because the medical and social circumstances after WWI were very different by mid century.

Reports started in China—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—and quickly became global. The world population then was about 2.9 billion, and is now 7.9 billion. The USA was 177.8 million and is now 329.5 million.

Certainty in numbers between the pandemics vary, mainly because of the current obsession of counting each and every infection and death, and the now global ability to count. Getting good counts from, say, Brazil in 1957 was impossible.

Some estimates say there were 1.1 million “excess” global deaths in 1957, put down to the flu. But that’s a model, not a count, and it’s not clear how many of the non-excess deaths were flu, or something else. Others say around 2 million died globally. Still more say up to 4 million.

That makes a global death rate of 0.04% to 0.1% for Asian flu—over about a 14 month period. The H2N2 flu never went away, of course; it and its mutations still prowl the world. So it’s difficult to compare directly with covid, which has reigned over a two-year period. Nevertheless, current estimates are 5.59 million dead, making a global rate of 0.07%. That’s right in the middle of the Asian flu estimates.

There was no panic in 1957-1958. There is, and has been, great panic now.

The Asian flu killed a lot of the young, those 15 years old or so and younger, at higher rates then the aged (Figs. 7, 8, 13 here); while covid kills mostly those over 75. In this sense, the Asian flu was worse.

Again, now we hear about deaths daily, if not hourly. Deaths in the USA were only an estimate then: they are now, too, but we’re much cockier about uncertainty. The CDC guesses about 116 thousand Asian flu deaths, out of an estimated 45 million infections.

The Asian flu numbers make for a 38.2% infection rate over 1957-1959, about a 14 month period. This rate only grew after the close of the official pandemic. The overall death rate for this period was 0.1% of the population—but this number, too, grew later. The infection fatality rate was 0.26%. This is, of course, averaged over all ages.

The infection rate of covid, over a longer period of time, January 2020 to now, is 67% to 92%. Yet we care much more deeply about measuring these days, so the comparison with earlier numbers is much harder. The covid panic caused testing to soar to idiot levels. Plus, the CDC estimates 15% of those infected with covid never knew it. Almost certainly, then, Asian flu infections are underestimated.

The population covid fatality rate, over a longer two years, is about 0.26% (866 thousand/329.5 million). The infection fatality rate grows close to that because so many have already been infection.

So covid is, in one sense, about twice as bad as H2N2, but given half the deaths were in the young half with Asians flu, and covid numbers are likely overestimated compared to H2N2, the two diseases are comparable. Covid, like H2N2, will also continue on.

There are thus few differences between the pandemic numbers. Except for levels of panic. Then, none: Now, insanity.

Why did we panic then and not now?

Many recall the Diamond Princess cruise ship story from December 2019, a floating covid laboratory as some came to call it. There were 3,711 people on the ship, 712 confirmed infections, and from 7 to 14 died from the Alpha (worst?) variant of covid. Even then, pegging cause of death was difficult.

But with those numbers, and given the people were locked down on the ship, with no masks or vaccinations, we arrive at initial estimates of 19% infection rate, 0.2% – 0.4% overall fatality rate, and 1% to 2% infection fatality rate. Passengers were also older than average, and we came to learn later covid is a disease of the elderly.

These were not fun numbers, as disease numbers never are, but they were far from panic-worthy. But panic we did.

What’s interesting, is that the CDC in 1957 blamed the spread of the H2N2 virus on foreigners and cruise ships (other pandemics, too): “On August 12 [1957], the AROSA SKY docked in New York with at least 50 active cases of influenza among some 400 foreign exchange students who had traveled tourist class.”

There was lots of obviously silly news emerging from China in early 2020, which was too willingly accepted—but not by all of us. Some of us smelled a rancid odor from the beginning. Others took a bit longer (good stories here) It was clear to some that the Chinese street health theater showing parades of men in spacesuits spraying mysterious substances into the air was asinine at best and bullshit at worst.

We tell the whole story of how the panic emerged in The Price of Panic. The book is a tad out of date now, since our last updates to the text were early summer 2020. But the material on the relative technological ease of spreading gibberish, globalization and the rise and excessive trust in Experts, the growing tyranny of governments, the wail of people shouting “Save me!”, the effeminate beliefs of people thinking government “solutions” could be effected, when no power on earth was able to stop a respiratory virus from spreading before, all that is in there.

Before 2020, and even early into it, it was generally acknowledged, after a century of studying the problem, masks did nothing. They weren’t used or insisted on in 1957. They were made illegal not to wear in many locales in 2020. They did nothing to stop the spread of a bug breathed in, as expected.

I’ve written about masks so often before, I’m sick of it. Our latest panic is N95 salvation masks. LA is now soft torturing its kids by making them wear nose clips over their masks. So it’s well to cite a JAMA paper which concluded (among other things) “Among 2862 randomized participants…There were 207 laboratory-confirmed influenza infection events (8.2% of HCP-seasons) in the N95 respirator group and 193 (7.2% of HCP-seasons) in the medical mask group.” Which is to say, no real difference. And we could cite many more that showed no masks at all were similar. Even by surgeons not wearing surgical masks.

Vaccines then as now were deemed important. There was no way to get them injected worldwide in 1957, and no methods for vaccine “passports” or enforcing vaccine mandates—all based now on the preposterous fallacy that if you are fired for not having a vaccine, you cannot catch the disease or spread it while unemployed. Of course, mandates are solely to punish those who will not obey their betters.

In 1957, there was a better understanding of the limitations of vaccines, hence the lack of panic. The healthy appreciation of uncertainty gradually eroded to our Expert-level certainty. One amusing confession comes in the journal Emerging Infection Diseases, in what was called the “abortive” potential swine flu almost-pandemic of 1976.

An even higher yielding HA mutant virus, X-53a, was selected from X-53 and subsequently used in the mass vaccination of 43,000,000 people…When no cases were found outside Fort Dix in subsequent months and the neurologic complication of Guillain-Barre syndrome occurred in association with administration of swine influenza vaccine, the National Immunization Program was abandoned, and the entire effort was assailed as a fiasco and disaster.

Perhaps we’ll come to the same conclusion for covid vaccines.

Even then propagandists propagandized. Only they’re much better at it now. Still, solid efforts were made in 1958. This is from a 1957 issue of the British Medicine Journal, then as now influential:

Panic then, panic now. Only now we are real good at it.

Later we’ll discuss how government “solutions”, unavailable in 1957, only made things worse.

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  1. Robin

    During the flu pandemic of the 1950s, news was spread by mouth or by written word as television (visual news) was in its infancy.

    Television became dominant during the next decades.

    Today hardly anyone would say their primary news source is the newspaper and few would say radio. Many would still say television, but the last two years has pushed the internet into the forefront.

    So the internet is (yet again) replacing television – this is accelerated by the lockdown policies of the last two years where the western population, instead of going to work with other humans, now get their world and life experience fro a computer display.

    During the 1970s, Buckminster Fuller (from my perhaps flawed memory) estimated that something like 98% of the world’s population had never travelled more than 30 miles from their place of birth.

    Today, the internet is becoming the means of global interpersonal communication (perhaps this is part of a plan). Maybe we will discover in a few years time that 98% of the world’s population never travels more than 10 miles from their computer screens.

    Makes it much easier to induce panic among the masses. We’re living in a high-tech panopticon.

  2. john b()

    Re: Letter to BMJ

    1 We are talking “House Calls”
    2 No doctor notation on names

  3. Gail Finke

    There was no panic because people still thought that viruses might kill them — just in general, not a new one. They thought they might, at any time, get a really bad flu and that there was only so much you could do about it. Now people have convinced themselves that we OUGHT to be able to stop a new pandemic, and that it is outrageous and wrong that a new one should kill even one person. There really seems to be an underlying belief that we can stop a pandemic cold, just like that — with no trouble, and no other consequences. And when the consequences pile up everyone is amazed. When people die anyway people are amazed. When everyone dutifully lines up for a shot just like in the movies and it doesn’t work IMMEDIATELY they are amazed. When they wait two weeks for it to take full effect and it STILL doesn’t stop the pandemic cold they are amazed. When they blame recalcitrant luddites who won’t get shots for being the problem, and people with the shots spread and catch and die from the virus they refuse to believe it. People somehow decided all at once, very early on, to simply NOT BELIEVE anything but that “we” will “stop the pandemic,” that even one death from it is an outrage, and that the impossible (the entire world getting a shot at the same time — the pandemic ending — and everyone going about business as before with no adverse consequences) not only OUGHT to be possible, but WAS possible.

  4. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Interesting comparison, Briggs. Not much flu panic back then, but there were other manufactured panics, the main one being the cold war and the hobgoblin threat of nuclear annihilation. Duck and cover, children! That was a funny one since the frightful enemy was the very same “friend and ally” we had been at such pains to build up back in the salad days of WWII — another great panic fest.

    This latest panic has revealed, in ShArP ReLiEf, the astounding credulity of wide swathes of the people. This is a permanent condition of humanity, and not something new. It is not a bad thing if the people have good shepherds, but it is a terrible thing when wicked shepherds gain the upper hand. Our Overlords are wicked men, lusting for worldly power, and they know about people’s cattle-like behavior, having long studied the subject, and have learned to herd them by use of various tricks, sticks, and carrots, multiplied in our day by new tools of mass communication.

    Again, not a new thing. Mencken noted back in his day, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” The Overlords, Satan’s servants, were operating in his day, too. Go back in history you see the same principle in action. Conspiratorial? Yes. This is human nature.

  5. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Robin: “Maybe we will discover in a few years time that 98% of the world’s population never travels more than 10 miles from their computer screens.”

    Make that 10 inches, with phones in pockets. Who controls the phone controls the herd.

  6. AG McNeil


    Nazi sympathizer? Or does your comment lead me to a misunderstanding of your meaning?

  7. KGB

    Compare the diet and size of your average person in 1957 vs. 2020 and you’ll quickly be able to account for a large number of the Holocough victims.

  8. Incitadus

    Very good point Briggs indeed everything we knew about virology was tossed
    out the window. One of the most telling features of the scam-demic for me was
    the availability of convalescent plasma for our presidents and kings but was too
    expensive and arduous to produce for the general public. CP was developed
    and used with great success during the inflated 1918 Spanish flu pandemic but
    until Trump announced he had been treated with it no public mention of it was made.
    Trump then magnanimously announced that he would see to it that it was made available
    to the general public though by then tens of thousands had already been murdered with
    those highly touted ventilators rushed into production by our heroic domestic automotive
    industry. A miracle of modern American production know how everything else having been
    farmed out to China. DeSantis and Biden are now playing political football with it and it
    remains an almost sure cure superior to any vaccine out there. Indeed it may have been
    on hand for all of the right people before any of this even started.

  9. Hagfish Bagpipe

    KGB: “Holocough victims”

    “Holocough” — that’s funny.

    Internet search shows it triggering les Esquimeaux. That’s extra funny. Six million Americans died. We need a Holocough Museum. Imagining the display pile of used masks, a tear comes to my eye. Laughing.

  10. Ann Cherry

    Who’s Calling the Shots on Your Doctor’s Orders?

    “Dr. Vladimir Zelenko was going about his ordinary practice in Monroe, New York, when he suddenly found himself at the epicenter of one of the first covid outbreaks in the US. Patients he’d been taking care of for twenty years were looking to him for help, and he had nothing to offer them. So, he prayed to God for help and set about doing some research….”

  11. Although your article is implicitly about the role of politics in the public, media fostered, reactions to the current and late 50s pandemics there is a far more interesting question we could ask about the two pandemics: why has the public health reaction to pandemics not changed?

    When, circa 1590 (?), several sailors off a ship in Bristol harbor died of an apparent pox in a dockside tavern the locals burnt the ship, the dock area, and the inn while killing everyone who could be accused of having been near the ship or its crew. Here it is 2021 and public health still relies on the same ideas. Why?

    I can answer your question easily: the left saw the pandemic as a way to gut Trump and cripple the western economies; but you can answer mine?

  12. Hagfish Bagpipe

    More exhibits at the Holocough Museum on the National Mall; the building looking like a sinister mash-up of hospital, the SPLC headquarters, and an insecticide factory:

    — Photos of children in classrooms forced to wear masks.

    — Recreation of a clinic, where mass inoculations took place

    — Piles of used syringes

    — Video of Vaxxi leaders mandating injections

    — Wax figure of Gates injecting child

    — Video of athletes dropping dead on the field

    — Recreation of hospital ICU with intubated victim being murdered on ventilator

    — Displays of effective, but suppressed, therapeutics such as ivermectin, hydroxychloroquin, vitamin D, et cetera

    — Displays of lying statistics, phony studies, fake news, brainwashing, gaslighting, hysteria mongering, quarantine camps, QR tatoos, lockdowns, social distancing, plexi screens, “stand here” stickers on the floor, screeching karens, isolation, ruined businesses, families, depression, suicide, etc — all the horrors of the Holocough, perpetrated by the most monstrous regime in human history, the cruel and sadistic Vaxxis.

  13. Ann Cherry

    Why the Masked and Unmasked have Disdain for Each Other, by Dennis Prager:

    “Since each side regards the other as anti-science, what is the science?
    Nearly all public health authorities claim that masks are absolutely necessary to save lives. But they have virtually no science to back up the claim.
    There is, however, abundant scientific evidence that masks are worthless vis-a-vis viruses and do great harm to society.

    “Here is a fraction of the examples I could give:

    “In February 2020, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted: “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”

    “In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program executive director, Mike Ryan, wrote: “There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any particular benefit.”

    “A 2010 study in France led by Laetitia Canini (Ph.D. in epidemiology and biostatistics) concluded: “We did not identify any trend in the results suggesting effectiveness of facemasks.”

    “A 2009 study of Japanese health workers led by epidemiologist Dr. Joshua L. Jacobs, of the University of Hawaii Medical School, concluded: “Face mask use in health care workers has not been demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.”

    “As far as I could determine, the only randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the effectiveness of masks against COVID-19 was a 2020 study led by Henning Bundgaard of the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. Published in the March 2021 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, it found that 1.8% of those in the masked group and 2.1% of those in the control group became infected with COVID-19 within a month. The 0.3-point difference is statistically insignificant….”

  14. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Paul Murphy: “When, circa 1590 (?), several sailors off a ship in Bristol harbor died of an apparent pox in a dockside tavern the locals burnt the ship, the dock area, and the inn while killing everyone who could be accused of having been near the ship or its crew. Here it is 2021 and public health still relies on the same ideas. Why?”

    Do tell.

    Incitadus — carved in granite over the entrance to the Holocough Museum is the motto, NEVER FORGET – NEVER FORGIVE

  15. Incitadus

    Mr. Bagpipe: I’ve just got to use that despite any copywrite infringement.

  16. Incitadus

    Mr. Bagpipe: I sense a Holocough meme emerging it can all go under the
    rubric “Pfizer Macht Frei”…

  17. philemon

    Whoops, I forgot; here you go:

    Well, of course, it’s stupid. That’s the point. How much stupid will people put up with until they reach a point of “up with this we will not put.” I’m seeing it. They overplayed their hand. They always do.

    Supposedly, Pfizer is just like the tobacco industry (which is probably a defamation of the tobacco industry):

    Heavens, second hand vexxine injury! (Remember you saw it here first, folks!)

  18. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Icitadus: “I sense a Holocough meme emerging it can all go under the
    rubric “Pfizer Macht Frei”…”

    The sign over the entrance to the quarantine camps.

  19. Hagfish Bagpipe

    A. G. McNeil: “@Hagfish — Nazi sympathizer? Or does your comment lead me to a misunderstanding of your meaning?”

    The latter.

  20. JH

    Time has changed. Would you rather live in 1957-58 pandemic period or now?

  21. Bernard of Clairvaux

    Can you make a simple, clear graphic or table to compare 1957/8 Asian flu to Covid19 (the Doom) to provide as much as possible an apples to apples comparison of their severity? I think this type of contextualization can be important in waking people up to the current insanity.

  22. Johnno


    Vaxzi Australian gub’mint threatens that the Mark of the Vexx will be in place for(ever) years.

    Vaxzi NYC fighting hard to hold on to their masks!

    Vaxzi GoFme wants you to obey gub’mint.

    Uh… oh! Alberta caught counting vexxined deaths as unvexxed deaths! I wonder who else is doing it?

    Uh… oh! Germany is admitting that “pandemic” of unvexxed deaths were a result of a computer error! I wonder who else is also having errors?

    Uh… oh! Colorado school caught vexxining children without parental consent after promising they would never-ever do that! I wonder who else is never-never-ever doing that?

    Quadruply fully most vexxinatedly Israel is the most positively cased covid country in the world!!! But… how? HOW???

    Vexxined Olympian dies of covid! But… how? HOW???

    Uh… oh! Brandon can’t switch off the covidian democrat cult he created!

    Oh, Vaxzi Quebec, you so crazee!

  23. Johnno



    GUINESS RECORD BEING BROKEN BY x10! LONGEST CONVOY IN HISTORY! That’s a lotta racists and fringe anti-vexxers!

    Vaxzi Canadian Government trying their best to bureaucratically stop this from happening!

    Little Cowardly Prime Minister Brandon Trudeau is hiding! He’s disappearing for the next week! He got TOO CLOSE to someone who tested positive for Covid! He is negative, but he needs to quarantine! His triple vexxed body is too fragile to risk infecting all of you! How loving! Now he’ll have to miss the truck convoy showing up at his front door… Coincidence?

  24. Ann Cherry

    Here’s a short video of the truckers’ protest in Canada, which includes heartfelt thanks from a young Canadian woman whose husband got heart damage from the first dose. (Never-mind, she’s just one of the “small fringe minority holding unacceptable views”):

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