Prevention over treatment is key when looking back to history for answers about coronavirus, according to local historians
Associate Professor of History at Morehead State University Thomas Kiffmeyer said there are several similarities, and differences, to the current pandemic from the 1918 H1N1 epidemic.
“These things last longer than we think,” said Dr. Kiffmeyer. “And I think they are happening with greater frequency than we think.”
During the 1918 influenza epidemic, the medical infrastructure was stressed not only due to the disease, but World War I. It was economically and medically logical to stockpile medical supplies due to the war.
Kiffmeyer said in our current system it isn’t logical to focus on prevention in the same way.
“If you look at a healthcare system for profit, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do preventative medicine,” he said. “We ought to be looking at the fact that these big medical issues like this are happening more frequently and we need to prepare for them but if we simply focus on medicine for profit it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Kiffmeyer said it is important to know that the time span from generations who experienced similar pandemics is not that far away.
“I like to think about it this way, my grandfather was alive in 1919 and I am only one generation removed from my grandfather and that’s not really a long time,” he said. “In that sense, pandemics like this have hit every one of the last few generations.”
When it comes to the Appalachian Region, there are advantages and disadvantages to being in a rural area.
Although the virus spreads less quickly for areas that have a lower population, rural medical facilities might not be able to handle the stress if an outbreak were to occur.
“My hope is that it will lend force to arguments, that have been going on for a quite a few years now to preserving our rural hospitals and medical care facilities that have been closing at a rapid rate,” said Dr. Jinny Turman from the University of Viriginia’s College at Wise.
“There is value in rural life,” she said.