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TB, polio and those teen tearaways: the terrors of our times

This country is facing a huge challenge in Covid-19 - but we have weathered worse, writes Damian Corless

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The 1958 Christmas party takes place in the Cork Polio Clinic in Cork's City Hall

The 1958 Christmas party takes place in the Cork Polio Clinic in Cork's City Hall

Tuberculosis became front page news with the appointment of Dr Noel Browne as Minister for Health in 1948

Tuberculosis became front page news with the appointment of Dr Noel Browne as Minister for Health in 1948

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The 1958 Christmas party takes place in the Cork Polio Clinic in Cork's City Hall

We have been here before. We've survived much worse times. The First World War, for instance, which was followed with heartbreaking speed by the so-called Spanish Flu. It's just about in living memory, and the government was in a state of chaos.

In December 1918, just weeks after the guns of World War One fell silent, the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland went to the polls for the first time since 1910. The campaign took place during the great Spanish Flu pandemic which killed up to fifty million people worldwide, wiping out 280,000 victims in Britain and Ireland. The Evening Herald speculated that the cause of the flu was swine fever caught from eating "bad bacon".

More than 23,000 people lost their lives in Ireland to the pandemic in just one year - with the first wave of the killer virus believed to have arrived in Belfast before migrating down to Dublin and Cork. Globally, the Spanish Flu infected an estimated 500 million people and killed three to five per cent of the world's population, making it the deadliest pandemic in human history. This virus was unlike any other - it infected the young and the old. The new strain of infection - the most devastating since the great plague of the 17th Century was concentrated on the healthy and strong, with those under the age of 40 worst hit.