“Every Election Year Has a Disease” Is This a Coincidence?

Valerie Palomo

The coronavirus pandemic has had an effect on almost everything, including the 2020 presidential elections. Frequent social media enjoyers noticed a rumor that there has been a pandemic, virus, or disease every election year due to a meme that was shared on various social media platforms, which brings up the question as to whether this is a coincidence or not. 


When the coronavirus began to spread throughout China in January, it has continued to spread to other countries around the world such as Italy, the United States, and Spain. Precautions such as shutting down schools, closing restaurants to the public, and issuing guidelines to avoid gatherings of more than 10-20 people are being taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the U.S. Currently, there are about 163,539 cases in the U.S. and the coronavirus has even put a delay on the primaries.


“It’s scary to think about how much the coronavirus is changing everything and affecting everything,” said junior Jaylinn Sosa.


So far, about 13 states and U.S territory Puerto Rico, have postponed voting because of the virus according to CNBC as of March 24th. However, states such as Arizona, Illinois, and Florida have kept their primaries as planned and have not delayed voting. The coronavirus pandemic has changed and indirectly affected the 2020 campaign, and those who visit social media often are noticing a pattern between major disease outbreaks and presidential elections in America.


“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the government had anything to do with this coronavirus outbreak,” said junior Lauren Larios. “I feel like they’re always doing something shady.” 


A meme surfaced on social media that provides a list of  election years and disease outbreaks, implying that there is a connection between the two with a question at the bottom that asks, “Coincidences?” 


The claim matches the diseases with the years, the SARS in 2004, avian flu in 2008, swine flu in 2010, MERS in 2012, Ebola in 2014 and 2018, Zika in 2016 and the coronavirus in 2020. This conspiracy theory implies that these outbreaks were a scheme to influence and affect politics, however, most of the dates of the outbreaks don’t match the elections.

Photo of the viral meme that claims every election year has a disease. 


“I do think it’s possible for the connection between the diseases and the election years to not be a coincidence,” said Alyssa Cueva, a sophomore at Da Vinci Design. “I don’t know, maybe the government is using it as a distraction.” 


Most of the diseases that were mentioned in the list didn’t fully have an effect on the campaigns and were minimally mentioned. The SARS outbreak happened in2003 and did not peak or develop in 2004. Avian influenza doesn’t solely go back to 2008 and can trace back to as early as the 1990s. The swine flu began to spread in 2009 and was not mentioned during the 2010 midterm elections. The only cases of MERS in 2012 were in Saudi, Arabia, and the largest number of cases were in 2014 and 2015. The exception here would be Ebola because it is true that the largest outbreak occurred in 2014 and was a campaign issue in the 2014 midterm elections. Then we have the ZINK outbreak which began in 2015 in Brazil and did not impact the presidential race. The first reported case of coronavirus was December 31st, in Wuhan, China, and this time it has been a significant issue and point of discussion for the presidential candidates and the president.


There doesn’t appear to be much evidence to back up this conspiracy theory. The claim that every election year has a disease is partly false, but it is true that the time in which these outbreaks developed matched some of the years that have been discussed.  The debate over whether or not these match-ups contribute to this viral conspiracy theory could potentially push forward, despite evidence proving otherwise.