Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Friday warned that the coronavirus would have been more deadly than the Spanish flu if it had appeared in 1918.
“I think [that] given the profile of this virus, it’s likely it would have been far more deadly than the Spanish flu” if the coronavirus had originated in 1918 with the medical capacities of that time, Gottlieb said in an interview on National Review‘s The Editors podcast.
“I think it’s reasonable to surmise that anyone who gets admitted to a prolonged I.C.U. stay with COVID-19 who ends up getting intubated, [or] ends up getting prolonged critical care–that’s probably someone who would have died from the Spanish flu,” Gottlieb continued. “And if you do accept that assumption…if you say, some large proportion of people who are surviving COVID-19…would have died from Spanish flu, then COVID-19 not only looks like Spanish flu in terms of its distribution across the age range, but looks far more fearsome.”
The coronavirus has spread from Wuhan, China, to infect over 1,600,000 people and kill over 101,000 as of Friday. U.S. officials and lawmakers have criticized China for initially covering up the extent of the outbreak in Wuhan, as well as for failing to contain the outbreak when it first appeared.
“China was not being forthcoming with information that could have helped us prepare,” Gottlieb said. “This virus has changed the course of history…The gravity of what this virus is going to mean to society for the next two years can’t be overstated, in my view, and this is the consequence of something that came out of China.”
Gottlieb went on, “Had China been more aggressive sometime in November, and certainly in December, in trying to contain the spread of this…then they might have been able to fully contain this.”