Why it’s unlikely the 1889 Russian flu pandemic was actually caused by a coronavirus

Some believe the 1889 Russian flu pandemic was actually caused by a coronavirus?here’s why that’s unlikely

When discussing historical pandemics, the 1889 Russian flu pandemic often comes up. Recently, there have been claims that this pandemic was caused by a coronavirus, similar to the one responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this theory is unlikely. Let’s explore the reasons behind this skepticism.

The historical context

The 1889 Russian flu pandemic, also known as the “Asiatic flu” or “Russian flu,” was a global outbreak that affected millions of people. It was first reported in May 1889 in Bukhara, a city in present-day Uzbekistan. The virus quickly spread across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, causing significant illness and mortality.

The role of coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in animals and humans. They are known to cause diseases such as the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has brought significant attention to this virus family.

Evidence against the coronavirus theory

While it is tempting to draw parallels between the 1889 Russian flu pandemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is limited evidence to support the claim that the former was caused by a coronavirus. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Lack of historical records: The 1889 pandemic occurred before the discovery of viruses, and the available medical records from that time are limited. It is challenging to definitively identify the causative agent without concrete evidence.
  2. Different symptoms: The symptoms reported during the 1889 pandemic, such as high fever, sore throat, and cough, do not align perfectly with the symptoms commonly associated with coronaviruses. While there may be some overlap, it is not sufficient to establish a direct connection.
  3. Technological limitations: The tools and techniques used to study viruses in the late 19th century were rudimentary compared to modern methods. It is unlikely that scientists at that time could have accurately identified a coronavirus as the cause of the pandemic.


While it is interesting to speculate about the origins of historical pandemics, the claim that the 1889 Russian flu pandemic was caused by a coronavirus lacks substantial evidence. Without concrete historical records and the limitations of scientific knowledge at that time, it is challenging to make definitive conclusions. It is important to rely on scientific research and evidence-based studies to understand the causes of pandemics and prevent future outbreaks.