One Hundred Years – The Spanish Flu

From roughly January 1918 to December 1920, there was a deadly world-wide influenza pandemic. Approximately 500 million around the globe were affected and some 50 to 100 million died as a result of this flu. What appears strange it was mostly the youth, those healthy young adults (ages 20s to 30s) who were affected and died from the 1918 Spanish Flu. One of the major groups affected were all the new American soldiers called to serve in the military, some never even going overseas but rather stricken with this flu in their training camps. The overcrowded military camps and hospitals— which treated thousands of victims of chemical attacks and other casualties of war was an ideal site for the spreading of a respiratory virus.

Because there were massive troop movements all around the world, a variety of nations involved, was in part why it spread so much. In the United States, it was first noticed in Kansas in January 1918. By March 4, 1918 at Fort Riley men were coming down with the illness and just within days, some 522 men were already sick. It continued to spread quickly to other parts of the country.

By October 1918 an even stronger wave of the pandemic had mutated causing even more deaths. Not just soldiers but civilians (the homefront) were heavily affected – men and women.

By early 1919, the spread the number of deaths was less but it was still present and people did what they could to prevent the spread.

It was estimated that 28% of the US population had become infected and some 500,000 to 675,000 had died. The reason for unsure numbers, was because people were dying very quickly and records became hard to keep up with. There were not even obituaries in newspapers.

Many nations early on due to the war did not want reports in the newspapers about the flu and the deaths. But the nation of Spain was not in the Great War and did report about the number of deaths they had, so it was called the Spanish Flu.

So if you have found it difficult to locate certain relatives during the 1917-1920 time frame or beyond, it could be they went into seclusion or died to the Spanish Flu.

Photos: Red Cross workers during the Spanish Flu; and masks worn in hopes of preventing getting the flu.

Related Blogs:

Illnesses of our Ancestors

Illnesses of Long Ago

Old Terms for Illnesses

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