• The coronavirus outbreak began in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, and 80% of cases have been reported on the mainland
  • Failure to provide accurate information to the public in part was responsible for both the spread of the coronavirus and the Spanish flu
  • There have been at least 240 confirmed cases in the U.S. and more than a dozen deaths

Governments can prevent the coronavirus outbreak from turning into a repeat of the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic that killed 20 million to 50 million people worldwide by sharing information transparently and not trying to mislead the public, experts said Friday.

A Johns Hopkins live count of the contagion early Friday afternoon put the number of cases worldwide at 101,490 with 3,460 deaths. In the U.S., there were at least 240 cases and a dozen deaths.

The Spanish flu was so named because it killed the king of Spain. Where it originated, however, is an open question with speculation centering on France, China and Britain. By contrast, we know where COVID-19 originated: a seafood market in Wuhan, China. China accounts for 80% of the cases and 90% of the deaths, in part because of the slow government response to the outbreak and efforts to keep news of the problem quiet.

The United States also was slow in responding, with President Trump downplaying the virus’ severity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention botched the roll-out of testing kits although the government says that’s no longer an issue. Officials said 700,000 testing kits were available by Friday with 4 million expected to be available next week.

“During the Spanish flu pandemic, the government either limited the flow of information or actually disseminated misinformation to the public," Evan Nierman, founder and CEO of international crisis communication firm Red Banyan, said in an email to IBTimes.

“By contrast, the CDC in recent weeks has provided regular updates and situation summaries, as well as information related to how coronavirus spreads, testing and treatment, symptoms to look out for, and ways to reduce the spread of the disease.”

The mortality rate for the Spanish flu was 2.5%., with estimates for the coronavirus death rate between 1.4% and 3.4%, compared to 0.1% for the regular flu. The coronavirus, however, is more infectious than the flu and more severe in certain groups, particularly the elderly.

Trump on Friday signed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to fight the outbreak, more than three times what he initially sought. Trump has been pushing for a compressed timeline on developing treatments and a vaccine, ignoring best practices regarding testing and clinical trials.

Dr. Gregory Glen, president of research and development at biotech company Novavax, said development of a vaccine is “very complex,” but he said in a Sky News interview he is optimistic and estimated testing can begin within two months.

“We have an obligation to show it’s safe and efficacious,” he said.

Glen said a lot of thinking has been done in the last 10 to 15 years over how to respond to pandemics, and the big mistake that was made following the SARS outbreak was not stockpiling a vaccine developed for it. SARS also was a coronavirus.

“We had a SARS vaccine in 2012, but there was no financial interest to moving it toward licensure. If we had made a SARS vaccine and it was in the freezer …, it could have been deployed and might have had some effect here,” he said.

The emergency funding bill provides $3.1 billion for medical supplies and research. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation said $375 million would be needed by the end of the month for trials and to increase global manufacturing capacity.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow advised Americans not to overreact, but also recommended against traveling to Seattle, where most of the U.S. deaths have occurred.

New York’s attorney general sent a cease-and-desist letter to televangelist Jim Bakker, demanding “The Jim Bakker Show” stop pushing Silver Solution as a treatment for coronavirus since there’s no evidence it actually works.