Two sisters, but died 100 years apart, one from 1918 Spanish flu, the other from coronavirus now

  • Selma Ryan, aged 96 succumbed to COVID-19 on April 14, three days after her birthday, while her sister had died from Spanish flu in 1918

  • Her husband had survived during the Korean war, when shot down as air force fighter

Two sisters, Esther and Selma died from two pandemics—the Spanish flu and the coronavirus disease respectively, both being 102 years apart.

Selma Ryan, aged 96, succumbed to COVID-19 on April 14. She lived in Barton Hills assisted living in Austin, US. Her elder sister Esther, whom she never had a chance of meeting died at the age of 5 suffering from the Spanish flu in 1918, according to Dignity Memorial.

Selma Ryan
Selma Ryan died succumbed to coronavirus while her sister from Spanish flu Dignity Memorial

Different diseases, different mortalities

The 1918 pandemic's mortality proved to be higher for those who were below the age of 5, as opposed to novel coronavirus disease whose mortality is higher in those above 80. That explains the ironic death of both sisters.

What makes Selma's death curious is that she died in the same month as her birth. Her birthday was on April 11, three days before her death. Her German-speaking parents learnt English from Selma, living in a farm in Hurnville, Texas, miles north of Henrietta.

The Spanish flu

The Spanish flu infected about 500 million people making up nearly one-third of 1918's world population, while deaths are estimated at least 50 million globally. The US witnessed 675,000 deaths, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19 is being considered the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu. There are 2,411,553 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide as of today and 165,338 have died while 629,028 recovered.

1918 flu
1918 Spanish flu Wikimedia commons

Previously, it was reported that a 101-year-old man in Italy, known as Mr. P, survived COVID-19, in addition to surviving the 1918 Spanish flu, and the two world wars.

Musical family

The memorial recollects that everyone in her economically poor family was musical and played many instruments. Her brothers Karl and Victor were well known in the region for playing the mandolin, guitar, piano, besides singing.

Her husband, an Air Force pilot during the Korean War, was shot down on his 75th mission behind enemy lines but survived. Selma is survived by her two children, many grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren to tell her tale to the world.

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