Some time ago, there were rumors that 5G network towers had spread ingress sons, so there have been tower arson incidents in several European countries, more than 70 arson incidents in the UK alone, and even engineers maintaining 5G base stations have been attacked. However, similar rumors have not come to the fore, and more than a century ago utility poles and other mysterious causes were thought to be the cause of the flu.
As the new coronavirus spread around the world, a conspiracy theory about the disease spread rapidly on social media, saying that the disease’s origin was not the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), but rather that the outbreak was actually caused by the introduction of 5G, and that radiation from 5G towers was the real culprit.
In the end, of course, such statements proved to be a conspiracy theory. In fact, throughout history, conspiracy theories have accompanied epidemics. More than a century ago, conspirators tried to blame similar technological innovations for a deadly flu outbreak.
Figure 0: 5G tower destroyed by arson.
Conspiracy theories: The lights of a black pot for the Russian flu
On 31 January 1890, the European edition of the New York Herald published an article stating that electric lights had in some way caused a global influenza outbreak. “The disease is mainly rampant in towns where electric lights are widely used, and the disease is everywhere attacking telegraph staff,” the article states. “
The flu was the first modern flu outbreak, known as the Russian flu. The flu probably appeared somewhere in Russia in 1889 and spread rapidly around the world. It took only four months to capture every part of the planet, and the United States reached its peak of the flu epidemic in January 1890. In the first wave of outbreaks, more than 1 million people worldwide (about 1.5 billion worldwide) were killed.
The Russian flu stems in part from the consequences of globalization. Railways and ocean liners have become the perfect channel for the spread of influenza, accelerating the spread of the epidemic in various countries and continents. Like Covid-19, early outbreaks have led to misinformation, conspiracy theories and numerous therapies. Although there was no Internet transmission at the time, the impact of newspaper and telegraph transmission was similar.
Dr Karen Douglas, a researcher who studies the psychology of conspiracy theories, said: “Cognitively, people need to know the truth, and they need a sense of security. These needs were not met during the outbreak, so conspiracy theories seemed to be compelling. “
Figure 1: An 1890 newspaper reported that electric lights were the culprit of the Russian flu.
Conspiracy theories stem in part from a lack of medical knowledge.
When reports of russian flu first surfaced, medicine was in the midst of a major shift. A theory of argon prevailed in the early 19th century that disease was spread by inhaling “bad air” of rotting substances. By the middle of the 19th century, however, the microbial theory of disease had become more popular, but supporters of the theory of argon persisted until the early 20th century.
Great advances were made in medicine in 1889, but the cause of the Russian flu outbreak is not clear. Although scientists such as Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur have developed vaccines to prevent disease, it was not until three years later, in the early 20th century, that the virus could be infected with humans was discovered. And it wasn’t until 1933 that scientists determined that both the Russian flu and the 1918 Spanish flu were caused by the flu virus.
The severe lack of medical knowledge in 1889 meant that doctors and researchers could not explain the disease that was spreading globally. The newspapers at the time wrote the doctors’ theories about the outbreak. A report in the Boston Globe says it bears a resemblance to dengue fever. An article in the New York Times likened it to the disease that killed President William Henry Harrison in 1841. This uncertainty about the characteristics of the flu fuels conspiracy theories and wild speculation about why.
Figure 2: The Russian flu outbreak has led to a wave of conspiracy theories.
The speculation of flying in the sky is very similar to today’s outbreak.
Speculation about the Russian flu bears a striking resemblance to today’s outbreak. Although scientists know a lot about the new coronavirus, that hasn’t stopped speculation about its origin. One of the biggest conspiracy theories is that the virus was deliberately manufactured in the lab. Who is behind the new crown outbreak depends entirely on which theory you believe. There is considerable genetic evidence that the coronavirus that caused the outbreak is almost certainly natural, but that hasn’t stopped speculation.
“This is a classic phenomenon of conspiracy theories that links points that don’t exist, ” Dr. Douglas said. People are more likely to get the wrong information when there is so much information around it, and it is often contradictory. “
Although there were no rumors of man-made viruses in the 1890s, this did not stop more absurd theories about the origin of the Russian flu infecting the public. In addition to the idea that power poles or wires could cause flu transmission, Dr. William Jandley of Chicago has attracted the attention of newspapers by claiming to have isolated the microbes that caused the outbreak.
Dr. Jandley claims that these microbes come from stardust that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere every 16 to 17 years. Other medical experts have coolly rejected Dr Jandley’s idea, preferring to consider volcanic ash, bird migration, or other similarly misguided causes.
Figure 3: In 1890, newspapers were full of “special effects” ads.
Doctors are also feeling overwhelmed.
Doctors are also confused about the best treatment for the new deadly flu virus because of a lack of understanding of the new virus. An article published in the Lancet in 1889 acknowledged that “because of our lack of a comprehensive understanding of the disease, it is difficult to propose effective preventive measures other than to comply with general medical guidelines.” “
In the absence of scientific treatments for Russian influenza, many suspicious treatments have emerged, exploiting the fear of an unsolved disease. This is similar to today’s new corona outbreak. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned that herbal teas, colloidal silver solutions, and detergents are not reliable.
Newspaper advertisements in the 19th century were also touting some of the “cures” for Russian flu. Castor oil has become a treatment touted by several newspapers, as well as bronchial inhalers and batteries. Even doctors are touting that drinking brandy and eating oysters can prevent the flu virus.
However, the most famous drug in Russian flu treatments is the stony carbonate smoke ball, which was made in London and advertised. These balls release fine powdered stony carbonic acid “smoke” that people can inhale through their nostrils. The company that introduced the treatment has promised that it will prevent people from contracting the Russian flu. The company has also promised to compensate customers 100 pounds, equivalent to $13,000 now, if the product fails.
In December 1891, Mrs. Elizabeth Carlisle purchased one of these products and used them many times, but she was infected with the flu and eventually lost her life. Carlisle and her husband filed a claim against the stone carbonate smoke ball manufacturing company because the stone carbonate smoke ball ball did not work, but it was ignored. In 1892, the couple filed a lawsuit in court, which heard that Mrs Carlisle deserved compensation.
Figure 4: A stone carbonate smoke ball used to treat the Russian flu.
“Poison” as a special-effects drug?
Another similarity to the Covid-19 outbreak is that there is also a drug that roams the edge of science and wishful thinking. During the 1889 flu epidemic, the antimalarial drug Quinine was advertised by newspapers and doctors as a drug for the Russian flu. Although many members of the medical establishment seem to be opposed to the use of Quinine to treat the disease, these objections have not been taken seriously.
In December 1889, a Boston newspaper chronicled the process by which people took Quinine to fight the disease. That same month, an investigative article in the Kansas City Star lamented that Quinn’s price had been jacked up and that demand for Quinine had kept malaria patients out of the way. This is a similar situation today, where taking hydroxychloroquine is often seen as a treatment for new coronary pneumonia, but there are also many reports that an overdose could harm people with rheumatoid arthritis.
While research into the therapeutic effects of these Covid-19s is still ongoing, there is no doubt that these drugs may be highly toxic, as evidenced by several clinical studies. A Phoenix man has died after taking a derivative of chloroquine, which was originally used as a fish tank cleaner.
Unfortunately, there have been similar tragedies in Russia. The January 1891 newspaper reported at least two cases of Russian flu patients mistaking the toxic sin. They mistakenly thought they were taking quinine, which resulted in multiple deaths from poisoning.
Figure 5: Hydroxychloroquine is considered a treatment for new coronary pneumonia.
Misinformation causes people to get hurt.
“Misinformation, conspiracy theories, and uncertain treatments are common during an outbreak,” Dr. Douglas said. People’s mental state has thus become quite complex. Studies have shown that people who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to turn to alternative therapies and distrust mainstream medicine. “
More worryingly, the spread of misinformation and a lack of trust in scientific evidence can do real harm to people. Recourse to untested treatment can lead to people not getting the treatment they need and are at greater risk. Although drinking some of the substitute therapies, such as herbal tea, is relatively harmless, it is not. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that colloidal silver can cause permanent skin discoloration, making it difficult for your body to absorb drugs, including antibiotics.
Sometimes, the spread of conspiracy theories hurts more than just people. In the UK, the idea of 5G leading to a new crown outbreak has gained a foothold in the minds of a significant number of people, with dozens of arson attacks on towering towers in the country. Although no one has been injured, conspiracy theorists have threatened to harm those involved in the posters.
As companies race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, conspiracy theorists may be preventing people from getting them. Anti-vaccine activists have launched a campaign against the vaccine, protesting against the development of the vaccine and working with protesters who are tired of home-grown orders. Dr Douglas said: “Research has shown that exposure to conspiracy theories increases the hesitancy of vaccination. The poll also confirms this, with one in five Americans saying they will not be vaccinated against the virus in a recent poll.
Figure 6: Vaccine research on Covid-19 is under way.
To dilute its harm is the biggest conspiracy theory.
Perhaps the most insidious conspiracy theory about the new coronavirus seems more harmless: simply downplaying the harms of the disease. There are many articles and television programmes dedicated to promoting the idea that the economic cost of staying at home is greater than the damage caused by the disease itself.
Dr Douglas said: “The theory is popular because it allows people to pretend that everything is ok and then continue to live and work normally. “This is a classic case of motivational reasoning, where people believe what they want to believe or want to believe. “
The theory that the virus is harmless can be said to have set a precedent. In a New York Times article about the Russian flu, the author claims that while the flu is spreading, it is largely harmless. The common cold is not fatal. Just a few months later, however, when the outbreak subsided, the Russian flu killed more than 2,500 New Yorkers, making New York the worst-hit city in the United States.
Figure 7: It is most frightening to downplay and ignore the dangers of the outbreak.
Who’s behind the Russian flu?
More than a century after the 1889 Russian flu, there are many theories about its origin. During a similar global flu outbreak in 1957, there was evidence that both outbreaks were caused by the H2N2 influenza virus. But a 1999 study concluded that The Russian flu may have started with an H3N8 influenza virus, which is commonly found in ducks and horses and can infect humans.
There is another interesting possibility. In 2005, researchers published genetic sequences of the OC43 virus. This is a coronavirus associated with the common cold. They point out that OC43 may have been transmitted from cattle to humans around 1889, and they speculate that it may be the origin of the Russian flu. While researchers still need more research on its true origin, let’s remember that Covid-19 is the second coronavirus-induced outbreak.