Spanish Influenza Worldwide Outbreak 1918


May 27, 2007
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I had a little bird and it's name was Enza
and I opened up the Window and In Flu Enza

Children's song about the Spanish Influenza 1918


Okay Folks- I always wondered if any Titanic survivors or relatives of Titanic passengers got sick with the dreaded Influenza. Can any of you include any Titanic survivor or relative of a passenger of Titanic who was ill of the Spanish Influenza of 1918 or any other story you have come across in your research about the 1918 outbreak. The Person you include would just have to be ill with Influenza of 1918 to qualify. I know the Spanish Influenza wasn't a Disaster at Sea unless any of you know about any sick sailors stories, but it was still a disaster a Titanic survivor would have encountered. I myself lost two great aunts to the disease. So I'm putting it here in the Gilded Age for want of a better place. Have Fun.
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Dec 2, 2000
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I don't know if any of the survivors were victims of the Spanish Flu, but a quick search revealed the following who died in 1918:

HARDWICK, Mr Reginald – 4th March 1918
O'BRIEN, Mrs Johanna "Hannah" – 17th October 1918
PUSEY, Mr Robert William – 28th May 1918
DE MESSEMAEKER, Mrs Anna – 30th April 1918
HOLVERSON, Mrs Mary Aline – 2nd May 1918
KENNEDY, Mr John – 9th June 1918
BUCKLEY, Mr Daniel – 15th October 1918

While the cause of death isn't listed for most, some were decidely on the young side, so it wouldn't surprise me if the flu tagged one of them. Beyond that, it would appear that the vast majority were fortunate enough to survive this pandemic.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Certainly Hannah O'Brien, and maybe the husband and child of Margaret Madigan (research findings vary). Nellie O'Dwyer died of influenza in 1917. Several others also at earlier or later dates.

(Daniel Buckley was killled in action just weeks before the end of the Great War.)
 
May 27, 2007
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Hi Michael Thanks for the Info

The 2 October deaths are suspicious because to start with this strand of flue targeted young adults between 15 and 40 years. The exact opposite of what the flu usually targets which are the elderly and children. The main wave that killed the most people in 1918 was in the fall also. Mostly in September and October. So you see why I singled out Mr. Buckley and Mrs. O'Brien. Both died in October and I know for sure that Daniel Buckley was under 30. Was Daniel Buckley serving in the army at the time of his death. The reason I ask is that the Army camps were riddled with Influenza cases because of poor sanitation and also because of troop movements all over the country which also helped spread the disease.
 
May 27, 2007
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We should look really in September of 1918 for suspicious deaths. Not say that it couldn't be any other time of the year but that's when the supposedly deadly wave came though. At least that's what I always understood from Alfred Crosby's Book "America's Forgotten Pandemic" and my family history. Both of my great aunt both died in September and both of them weren't related and didn't even know each other. I'm not for sure how the Influenza acted in great Britain and Canada and other parts of the World.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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My medic informants tell me that flu most often strikes the young hardest. The elderly, if they get it, are more likely to die, but they often have much more immunity so get it less frequently in the first place. And if you were a cold, damp, tired, poorly nourished soldier in a crowded camp, then you must have been tragically susceptible. Most of the current bird flu victims have been young, but that might just be because looking after poultry is a job which parents tend to delegate to children.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I'm not for sure how the Influenza acted in great Britain and Canada and other parts of the World.<<

As I understand it, it was devestating enough that it may well have hastened the end of the First World War. The flu didn't just hit the United States but quite a few other nations as well. The writing was already on the wall in this as Germany was exhausted and it's military on the verge of revolt so absent the flu, I think it still would have ended before the turn of the New year. If the flu did anything, it served as one of the final straws to break the back of this particular camel.
 
May 27, 2007
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Good Point Monica. Doctors are now say that the 1918 strand was a form of bird flu

That why the 1918 strand was so baffling was that it was striking the hardest at adults between 20 to 40 years of age. One of my great aunts was 27 the other was 30. I don't know how it was in Great Britain but most of the Soldier Camps in the USA were a scandal regarding sanitation. Overcrowded and dirty. Don't get me started on the latrines.
 
May 27, 2007
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Michael-If the flu did anything, it served as one of the final straws to break the back of this particular camel.

Hear hear!

People forgot this Disaster the same way they forgot Titanic after it happened. The main reason they called it Spanish Influenza was because Spain was one of the few countries that didn't have war time censorship of the news papers so they had the most reporting of the disease. At least that what I have learned. I might be wrong though I was under the impression that most of the warring powers didn't want the other side to know how bad the flu was crippling them.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The 1918 outbreak was a true pandemic, with worldwide devastation. The total death roll can only be estimated, but was perhaps 5% of everybody living on the planet. It certainly killed more people than did the 1914-18 Great War. And a very much higher number contracted the disease and survived but were bedridden perhaps for weeks, so the impact on family and national incomes was considerable. It's rather surprising that so few of the Titanic survivors succumbed to the 'flu pandemic, but very likely that a lot more of them (and their families) suffered from it in one way or another.

In most cases the actual cause of death was pneumonia, contracted as a secondary infection which nowadays would be relatively easy to treat. In Europe the number of deaths in Britain and France together was at least equal to the numbers for the US (which had a much larger population), and in some island and other isolated communities there was anything up to 100% mortality. Relatively small numbers, however, compared with that other great Pandemic, the Black Death, which killed (depending on your favoured research estimates) anything up to two-thirds of the population of Europe.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>...I was under the impression that most of the warring powers didn't want the other side to know how bad the flu was crippling them.<<

Understandable. If my country was at war, I wouldn't want the "Bad Guys" to know about this sort of information.
 
May 27, 2007
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Howdy Bob-I think the flu killed about 50 million world wide though I could be over stating. Your right about the second infection being the clincher. The pneumonia basically turned the suffers lungs to pulp with the patient drowning in the own fluids. Not a pretty way to go.

Hi Michael- Thats why they called it Spanish Influenza. Because Spain was the only country that didn't have censorship of the press so most people were under the impression that it started there when in reality there is really no good evidence where it started. Although they think it might of been a form of bird flu. Scary thought I know.
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Jim Kalafus

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Have watched, with great interest, the exhuming of 1918 flu victims buried in Permafrost...to tell the truth, I'm not wild with enthusiasm about a strain of this particular "bug" being brought back to life under "safe" lab conditions.

One facet, among many, of this disease that fascinates me, is the fact that several large US cities saw virtually NO cases, while others (like Philadephia) were brought to near standstills. What did cities like Darien, Connecticut do right? What did cities like Easton, Pennsylvania, (where both of my paternal great-great grandparents died on the same day of the flu, and went unburied at the cemetery because there were no grave diggers left) do wrong?

>Relatively small numbers, however, compared with that other great Pandemic, the Black Death, which killed (depending on your favoured research estimates) anything up to two-thirds of the population of Europe.

True- but the majority of the deaths took place during the August-November 1918 wave of the 'flu. Had the flu not abated, before striking again in 1919, and once more in 1920, and kept going full force, it would have made the Black Death seem positively languid by comparison.

And, how about the still-debated link between Spanish Flu and the Encephalitis Lethargica epidemic of the early 1920s? Now THERE was a scary disease. The connection was made at the time that all of the victims were Spanish Flu survivors, but latter day researchers point out that given the omnipresent nature of Spanish Flu in 1918, it was hardly surprising that all of the Encephalitis victims had beeen exposed to it.

> I know the Spanish Influenza wasn't a Disaster at Sea unless any of you know about any sick sailors stories,

There was a horrendous outbreak aboard the Leviathan, which saw at least 99 fatalities. From what I read, it was truly beyond description. I'll be back later ~ I know of one case in which ships sailing in convoy were lost because their crews were incapacitated, but the salient details escape me at the moment.
 
Feb 4, 2007
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Any troop ship during that time was a ripe breeding ground for spreading influenza. The "USS America" (over 50 dead on one crossing) and "USS Northern Pacific" (hundreds ill, over 7 dead, more died after arrival at port) were two such of the harder hit.

The "USS Leviathan" was actually hit TWICE by the epidemic, once in late 1918 and once in Feb-March of 1919.

Apparently, the same number of deaths due to influenza in the US armed forces were either the same or greater than the loss experienced from actual combat. Quite a number of soldiers either became ill or died on various ships before even reaching the war theater.

I lost my relatively young great-great aunt in 1918 to the influenza epidemic after my great-great uncle kindly shared it with her. He survived, but died not too long after of what could be called "a broken heart".
 

Jim Kalafus

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BTW- The only musical reference to the Flu I can find is in 1920s female impersonator Frankie Jaxon's "No Matter How She Does It, She's Just A Dirty Dame." It turned up frequently as a literary device and, occasionally, as a plot device in films, but unlike most of the other pre-1940 disasters, there seems to be a paucity of musical memorials.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Unfortunately, what was not helpful was that even by this time, the dynmanics of epedimiology were still poorly understood and some of the treatment were little more then a way of hastening death. You would think that a thing or dozen might have been figured out thanks to the work of Dr. Walter Reed, but the line between scientific medicine and superstition was still appallingly thin.

I recall hearing about "Air Treatment" in my Jr. high school history class which amounted to little more then keeping the windows open to let fresh air in and "miasma" out.

Not surprisingly, it didn't work.

What was supposed to have worked for at least one guy (Caution, this is anecdotal only) was to light a roaring fire in his fireplace and cozy up with his favourite bottle of hooch. He figured he was going to be dead in the morning anyway, so why not check out happy and warm? He woke up in the morning alive and on the road to recovery.

Apparantly, it was the keeping warm part that did the trick. (Alcohol is not useful against a virus.)
 
May 27, 2007
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Hi Jason- Alfred Crosby mentions a troop transport Ship with an outbreak in his book "America's Forgotten Pandemic" that might be the Levithan I'll have to check. I wonder if any passenger ships were hit hard with the Spanish Flu.

Howdy Jim- I wonder if the communities you talk about not being hit so bad or at all had good quarantine in effect where the Spanish Flu simply couldn't get a contagion foothold to infect anyone because of quarantine practices in effect. People in government got really stringent in some cities ounce they knew what they were dealing with.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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At the risk of sounding distinctly morbid, what exactly did 'death by flu' entail? I know we're not talking about the kind of sniffle that can be shifted with a couple of Lemsips! Would it be treatable if we had an outbreak today?

I've only skimmed it so far but this thread is most interesting. I've been aware of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 for some time and, although I'm by no means 'up' on all the grisly details, I know it really was no laughing matter for those affected. The devastation it caused was, as Bob makes abundantly clear, absolutely appalling. My feeling is that this calamity would be far more widely-known if it hadn't followed so closely on the heels of WWI.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Would it be treatable if we had an outbreak today?<<

That's an outstandingly good question. This strain was particularly virulant and there are concerns over modern strains which could be even more so such as the so-called Bird Flu which causes health authorities everywhere a lot of sleepless nights. These days, modern transport systems such as aircraft make it a lot easier to spread. A single infected person boarding a 747 could infect the entire damned plane and deposit the up to 500 infected people in a crowded airport on the other side of the world within 12 to 18 hours.

The simple expediant of vaccination could stop it cold in it's tracks but the problem here is that influenza tends to mutate and vaccines are only good for one particular strain.

What makes it difficult to manage is not so much the infection itself, but all the stuff it leaves you open to such as pnuemonia.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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The Spanish flu even caused the cancellation of the Stanley Cup finals in 1919, scheduled to be played in Seattle. Many members of the Montreal Canadiens (one of two teams to reach the finals) came down with it.

Montreal was one of the hardest hit cities.
 

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