Story at a glance
- During the 1918 influenza pandemic, millions died after contracting the H1N1 influenza A virus.
- Anna Del Priore spoke to the Asbury Park Press, a New Jersey news outlet, after recovering from COVID-19.
- The 107-year-old lived through the 1918 pandemic and survived a case of the influenza.
A 107-year-old New Jersey woman who survived a case of the Spanish flu is now also a coronavirus survivor.
The Asbury Park Press spoke with Anna Del Priore, who is recovering from COVID-19 at Brighton Gardens, the assisted living facility in Middletown, N.J, where she lives. She had a fever and loss of appetite, but wasn’t hospitalized, her granddaughter Darlene Jasmine told the Asbury Park Press, and is back on her feet.
“I feel good,” Del Priore told the Asbury Park Press. “I thank God I’m alive.”
Del Priore, who was born in Brooklyn, contracted the influenza during the 1918 pandemic, caused by another virus that attacked the respiratory system. Now she and her younger sister Helen Guzzone, who is 105, have survived both illnesses, which together have killed more than 600,000 Americans.
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“You keep living,” she told the Asbury Park Press. “Dancing makes you feel good. I want to keep my health.”
Incorrectly called the “Spanish flu,” the H1N1 influenza A virus first emerged in the United States during World War I. While America and other countries were preoccupied by the war, media in Spain, which was neutral during the war, reported heavily on the flu — leading to the misconception that the flu originated there.
Today, one of the oldest survivors of COVID-19, 113-year-old Maria Branyas, is from Spain, which has recently seen a surge in COVID-19 cases. Another centenarian, Mildred "Gerri" Schappals, has also survived both pandemics — as well as both breast cancer and colon cancer. Schappals, who is 102, was about 10 months old when she had the flu, which was deadly even for healthy adults between 20 and 40, unlike COVID-19, which is considered most dangerous for patients 60 years or older.
"She was only about 10 months old when she had it," her daughter, Julia Schappals, told WMUR9. "The doctor had given up on her and said that she would likely die. She had a high fever. They didn't even bother to pin the diaper on her when they changed her, because she didn't move."
She survived the 1918 influenza, as well as radiation therapy for breast cancer and surgery for colon cancer, and now lives at an assisted living facility in Nashua, N.J. Nursing homes and other assisted living facilities, such as those Del Priore and Schappals live in, have been a major hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
"I was surprised," Julia told WMUR. "But then again, I was not surprised that she survived. That's how she's been her entire life, and when we asked her about it she kind of poo-pooed it. 'Yeah, I was sick for a couple days. It wasn't bad.'"
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