SPAIN’S only living survivor of the 1918 flu pandemic, ‘La Grippe’ has issued a dire warning about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jose Ameal Peña was four years old when the flu virus swept across the globe, claiming the lives of over 50 million people, giving it the dubious moniker of the deadliest pandemic in human history.
Now aged 105, Jose recalls his experiences from his home in the small fishing village of Luarca, Asturias, where 500 lives were lost due to the disease.
“I watched from my window as a steady stream of funeral processions made their way to the cemetery,” he recalled.
In the autumn of 1918 he became the only one of his seven siblings to catch the disease.
“I still can’t figure out how I’m here. When I woke up I could barely walk. I had to crawl on my hands and knees.”
As he wrestled with a relentless fever, a doctor prescribed vapours of boiled eucalyptus and seaweed.
Fast forward to the present day and Peña is watching the coronavirus pandemic spread on an eerily similar path across Spain.
Despite modern medical advances and more sophisticated warning systems and public isolation measures, Peña has warned that if the nation does
not stick together, history will repeat itself.
Anunciata, Jose’s daughter, told Spanish Press: “He knows exactly what is happening with the coronavirus.
“Since he lived through all that, he’s having a hard time now. He’s afraid that something similar will happen again, even though we’re living in very different times.”
A fellow survivor from across the pond, 107-year-old Joe Newman of Sarasosa, Florida, has similar feelings and has urged the public for their support during the crisis.
He said: “You have to be my crutch. I have to be yours. It’s been that way through every crisis we’ve had.
“And then we find when we do look back, that is what got us through it.”