Posted on 6 March 2020
In the closing year of the first world war, influenza spread across the globe with shocking speed, infecting 27% of the world’s population, and killing around 50 million people – more than the war itself. With the rapid rise in coronavirus cases in developed countries, it is worth remembering how far the medical world has come in the last 100 years. At the time of the outbreak, the origin of Spanish flu was not know, and is still a matter of debate today. Hospitals were overwhelmed, and mass graves were needed to dispose of the dead. We are now much better equipped to track and control the spread of epidemics, and many drugs and vaccines are already under development or being trialled.
Emergency hospitals and quarantine camps were set up to deal with the rise in cases:
In the trenches, influenza spread from camp to camp, killing injured soldiers in particular. Within the US military, more succumbed to influenza and pneumonia than to battle injuries. Soldiers returning from war also played a major role in the spread of Spanish flu.
To limit the spread of the virus, public events were encouraged to be held outdoors:
Today, detailed advice about how to limit the spread of coronavirus and what to do if you catch it is but a google search away. In 1918, distributing this information was harder – even radio was not yet widely available.
Coronavirus treatment: Vaccines/drugs in the pipeline for Covid-19: https://www.clinicaltrialsarena.com/analysis/coronavirus-mers-cov-drugs/
Photos of the 1918 Flu Pandemic: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/04/photos-the-1918-flu-pandemic/557663/
1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic Pictures: https://www.thoughtco.com/1918-spanish-flu-pandemic-pictures-4122588
The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862337/https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/04/photos-the-1918-flu-pandemic/557663/