India has faced many severe and huge natural disasters in the last 5 centuries.
The largest ones according to public memory and our history texts are the famines.
For example, the Bengal famine of 1943 was responsible for about 3 million deaths.
But what most people do not know and we are not taught in school is that the single biggest disaster was the 1918 flu.
The flu killed 5 percent of India’s population within a few months. About 18 million people.
A similar pandemic today with the same mortality rate would kill 70 million people.
The flu was caused by an H1N1 flu strain. Another strain of H1N1 causes what we all know now as the Swine Flu.
There are two theories about what caused such high mortality in the 1918 flu.
One is that it caused an extreme reaction of the immune system in young adults. If this was the case, a similar pandemic could cause equivalent rates of mortality today.
The second is that most of the deaths in 1918 happened as a result of a bacterial superinfection that followed the flu. The first antibiotics were not available until the 1930s! A similar occurence today would see most of those bacterial infections treated successfully.
It is surprising that the flu was not so devastating in the South and East of the country. Was it because of the high levels of coconut oil and coconut in the food? Monolaurin (Lauric Acid) in coconut oil is known to have antiviral properties. Did this protect them? Or was it something else?