Articles, Blog

Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918

September 26, 2019


In 1918, an outbreak of influenza resulted
in one of the worst pandemics in world history. What caused this pandemic to occur? How widespread was the suffering? No one is sure where the Spanish Flu originated. Some believe the pandemic began in Fort Riley,
Kansas. Others pinpoint China or East Asia. Still others have speculated that the source
of the flu was Austria or France. Regardless of its origin, in late 1917, doctors
in Europe began reporting an outbreak of a disease with a high mortality rate. They eventually identified it as a strain
of influenza known as H1N1 (now known as Swine Flu). This particular strain initially spread amongst
soldiers in World War I. The overcrowded conditions of military encampments,
trenches, and military hospitals created the perfect environment for spreading an airborne
illness. The disease spread quickly because when an
infected person coughs or sneezes, more than half a million virus particles can be spread
to those in close proximity. This was made worse by the conditions of World
War I. Many soldiers were malnourished and suffering
from the stress of combat. This led to millions of men with weakened
immune systems and left them susceptible to viral infections. The flu spread from country to country at
a rapid rate. Again, the wartime conditions enhanced its
global dissemination. Soldiers were leaving the battlefields and
returning home or traveling to foreign shores as they were deployed. As they moved, the flu traveled with them. Additionally, the ease of travel contributed
to how quickly the flu spread. Ships, trains, and automobiles moved faster
than ever before, which meant the flu was on the move as well. No part of the world was untouched. Ireland, Great Britain, India, Iran, Japan,
Samoa, and New Zealand all experienced outbreaks. The flu was first reported in the United States
in Kansas during the spring of 1918. It spread rapidly, and by mid-March had reached
Queens, New York. The global nature of the outbreak is why this
event is referred to as a pandemic. A pandemic is defined as the outbreak of a
disease that is prevalent throughout the entire world. The international press focused on the disease
as it made its way out of France and into the Iberian Peninsula. The country affected the most at that moment
was Spain; therefore, many in the media began referring to it as “the Spanish Flu,”
which is the name it is known by today. The virus caused hemorrhaging in the nose,
stomach, intestines, and lungs. Hemorrhaging in the lungs caused the sufferer
to drown from the buildup of fluid. Patients could also bleed from their ears
or mouths. These symptoms, as well as other complications,
resulted in the Spanish Flu being an extremely deadly form of the flu. Death rates for the flu are generally about
0.1% of those infected. However, with the Spanish Flu, somewhere between
10-20% of those infected died from the flu itself or from complications that arose from
their infection. Strangely enough, young adults (age 20-40)
were infected and died at the highest rate. This is abnormal compared to most outbreaks
of the flu where infants and the elderly suffer the most. Death tolls were high in numerous countries. Over 400,000 died in France, while about 250,000
died in Great Britain. More than 900,000 lost their lives in Iran,
and a staggering 17 million may have died in India. In the United States, approximately 28% of
the population contracted the illness, with somewhere between 500,000 to 675,000 succumbing
to death. In many cases, deaths were the result of bacterial
pneumonia, a secondary infection associated with the flu. The Spanish Flu impacted the economy as well
as other aspects of day-to-day life. Many stores closed while others did not allow
customers to enter. Instead, visitors were asked to leave their
orders on the doorstep outside. Agriculture was also affected because the
flu, coupled with the war, caused a severe shortage in the number of farmhands to work
fields and harvest crops. Many people were afraid to leave their homes
altogether. When they did, some resorted to wearing handkerchiefs
or even gasmasks over their faces. Doctors and nurses had difficulty meeting
the demands for their services. Many in both professions were overseas assisting
with the war effort. As a result, third and fourth-year medical
students were released from school to work in hospitals. Sadly, gravediggers and those who built coffins
also had difficulty meeting the demand. In some cases, bodies were left outside for
days at a time. In others, bodies were buried without coffins
or in mass graves. While many today think of the Spanish Flu
Pandemic as one event, there were actually three separate outbreaks of the virus. The first was in March of 1918. A second deadly wave occurred in the fall
of 1918. October of 1918 was one of the worst months
in terms of mortality rates, with 200,000 deaths recorded in the United States alone. The third and final wave occurred during the
winter of 1919. In the years that followed, the Spanish Flu
pandemic was largely forgotten. World War I had raged for four years and had
impacted virtually everyone’s life. As a result, the war overshadowed the outbreak
of the flu which lasted for such a brief time. In many countries, the focus was placed on
the millions who had died in combat rather than those who perished from the pandemic. However, the Spanish Flu infected 500 million
people and resulted in the deaths of 50-100 million worldwide. This would mean it took the lives of 3-5%
of the world’s population. This would also mean that the Spanish Flu
claimed more lives in less than a year than the Black Plague did in one hundred years. The Spanish Flu is remembered as one of the deadliest
natural disasters in human history.

9 Comments

  • Reply The forgotten confederates war December 19, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    need to do one about yellow fever

  • Reply CELTIC HAMMER December 19, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Woeful time glad I wasn't alive then . Good video very interesting. 👍

  • Reply Zachary Watson December 19, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    I remember getting an h1n1 vaccine as a teenager in 2009, when there was an outbreak.

  • Reply MAGA ZOG December 19, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    You better sign that pledge to Israel to never boycott Israel or your fired
    Mr Beat probably signed that one on the spot.

  • Reply mot ikswelborw December 19, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Wow 😢😢

  • Reply siamiam December 20, 2018 at 10:52 am

    thats pretty scary

    good video

  • Reply Jeanie Chowdury April 19, 2019 at 1:48 am

    My grandparents had it And lived

  • Reply Gail Fitches May 17, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Thank heavens we now have antibiotics. Most people who get the flu, will get secondary bacterial infections, where we now have antibiotics, that were not available back then. Some people said that the majority of people actually died from bacterial infections and not the flu itself.

  • Reply skyfire62 June 8, 2019 at 8:45 am

    My maternal great grandmother died of the Spanish flu in 1918 my grandmother was only 3 years old

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