Fighting COVID-19 now is both easier and harder than it was in 1918, WHO says

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(CNN) - It’s both easier and more difficult the fight the coronavirus pandemic than it was to battle the 1918 influenza pandemic, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

“With more connectedness, the virus has a better chance of spreading,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing. “But at the same, we have also technology to stop it, and the knowledge to stop it,” he added.

“We have a disadvantage — globalization, closeness, connectedness — but an advantage of better technology.”

The 1918 flu pandemic took just under two years to pass, Tedros said. He said he hopes to finish this pandemic in “less than two years.”

After that, the H1N1 strain that killed tens of millions of people joined the regular, seasonal mix of influenza viruses.

“It took three waves to infect most of the susceptible individuals, then settled down probably into a seasonal pattern,” Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of Health Emergencies Program. “Very often” a pandemic virus will settle into a seasonal pattern over time, he said.

“But this virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern,” Ryan said

Instead of passing in waves that offer respites, coronavirus can be suppressed with strict measures but rebounds quickly, Ryan said. “Clearly, when the disease is not under control, it jumps straight back up,” he said.

But the 1918 flu passed and so will this pandemic, he said.

“Human beings are resilient. We are a resilient species and we will get through this,” Ryan said.

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