In 1918, the flu strain known as the Spanish flu caused a global pandemic, that spread rapidly and killed indiscriminately. Young, old, sick and otherwise healthy people were all infected, and at least 10% of the patients died.
Exact numbers of death during the Spanish flu pandemic vary from country to country, but nearly one-third of the whole world’s population was infected and nearly 50 million became its victims, making it the deadliest pandemic in modern history. Although at the time it gained the nickname “Spanish flu,” it’s unlikely that the virus originated in Spain.
Cause of Spanish Flu.
Spanish Flu pandemic started in 1918, during the final months of World War I, and it’s widely believed now that WWI may have been the cause of this pandemic.
On the Western Front, soldiers living in quite bad conditions became ill. This was a direct result of weakened immune systems from malnourishment.
During the summer of 1918, as troops started to return to their native land on leave, they brought with them the undetected virus that had made them ill.
There is no confirmation about whereabouts of the particular strain of influenza that caused the pandemic, however, the 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, America, and areas of Asia before spreading to almost every other part of the planet within a matter of months.
Despite the fact that the 1918 flu wasn’t isolated to one place, it became known around the world as the Spanish flu, as Spain was hit hard by the disease and was not subject to the wartime news blackouts that affected other European countries.
One of the surprising facts about this pandemic is that it affected many of the young healthy people, a group that is generally resistant to this type of infectious illness including a number of World War I soldiers.
In fact, more U.S. soldiers died from the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during the war. 40% of the U.S. Navy was hit with the flu, while 36 % of the Army became ill, and troops moving around the world in crowded ships and trains helped to spread the killer virus.
Symptoms of Spanish Flu.
Initial symptoms included headache and tiredness, followed by dry cough, loss of appetite; stomach problems; and, on the second day, excessive sweating. After that pneumonia could be developed and the illness could damage your respiratory system. These symptoms were often the main causes of death. This makes it quite hard to calculate the exact numbers of deaths caused by the flu, as some of the deaths were often marked as deaths related to some other disease than Spanish flu.
Physicians didn’t know what to prescribe to their patients, many doctors advised people to don’t go to crowded areas or meet anyone. Social distancing was encouraged. Other treatments suggested included consuming cinnamon, drinking wine. It was also advised to people to cover their mouths and noses in public.
At the same time, WWI was going on as a result of which there was a shortage of doctors in many parts of the world, and many of the physicians who were left became ill themselves. Schools and other buildings became makeshift hospitals, and medical students had to take the place of doctors in some instances.
Like other mass experiences with infectious diseases, the Spanish flu pandemic had its own special characteristics. If we want to learn something from history, it is that we can always calculate how we learn from the past.