Riblet#29: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes (Mark Twain)

President Kennedy planned to form a History Committee to advise him on the background to current situations and also to provide examples of how similar situations had unfolded in the past; these would provide learning that might be applied to any new and similar situation.


Similarly, in risk management it is common to review incidents that have occurred in an organisation and also to review major events that have struck other organisations in order to see if they might have been handled better in your own organisation.


A 2005 study of the Russian Flu pandemic of the early 1890s suggested that it was probably a coronavirus rather than flu.  It appears that it jumped from animals to humans (in this case cows), many of those affected by Russian Flu suffered central nervous system damage, and it affected men far more than women, all features that appear to be shared with  C-19. It was also noted that having had the disease did not appear to provide immunity to further infection.


In 1890, the outbreak lasted around six weeks.  The prime minister, Lord Salisbury, became seriously ill, and the second in line to the throne died; consequently, George V, the Queen’s grandfather, would accede to the throne instead of his brother.  Businesses were severely disrupted and the official death toll in the UK was 27,000.  The disease then returned in 1891 and again in 1892.


In many ways this “flu” appears to be not too dissimilar to the current C-19, so perhaps organisations should be preparing right now for further waves to come.


Data Source: The Observer newspaper

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