Winter 2012 Dr. Page
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
The history and social impact of the Influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 brought awareness and valuable information about how such a disease is spread and the care needed to survive the "flu” but at the cost of over one third of the world population, 20-40 million deaths worldwide. The United States accounted for 675,000 to 1 million of total deaths. This pandemic was known as the "Spanish flu" or "La Grippe" and killed more people in one year then the total number of people killed in four years from the Black Death 'plague' in Europe. (http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/) The pandemic influenza 1918 was seen in four distinct waves originating in Europe on the battlefields in the spring and summer of 1918 and commencing to the rest of the three major continents by the fall of 1918. Throughout the winter of 1919 a third wave hit globally and this is when most of the deaths occurred for the US population. The forth wave of this strain of influenza in the spring and summer 1919 saw the tail end of the pandemic portion of influenza. While this particular influenza was not much different in strain than its predecessor the influenza of 1889 its ability to be overcome was the reason so many people died. (Bristow, 2012) Most people did not die of the 1918 influenza but rather the secondary infections associated with it. Pneumonia, and other lung infections were the most noted causes of death. A literal, drowning in one’s own fluids was discovered by numerous autopsies. Another particularly important observation about the influenza of 1918 is that while influenza predominately kills older and younger populations this virus targeted young adults. (Krasner,2010 pg 238)
The medical community and public health officials scrambled in the wake of the second wave of the 1918 influenza to bring education fast enough to help curb the spread of this disease. Public awareness for frequent...