The Spanish Flu: The Facts, Figures, and Skeletons
What was the Spanish Flu?
The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus. That nomenclature is no-doubt pinging your spider-sense; it sounds familiar. In 2009, the second pandemic of this malicious virus struck humanity, only we didn’t call it Spanish Flu, we labeled it Swine Flu.
Spanish Flu, more commonly known in epidemiological circles as the 1918 flu pandemic, was an unusually deadly outbreak that lasted almost 2 years and ended with a death toll of almost 100 million folks. By the time the flu was contained, or at least most of humanity had been naturally immunized by it, it had infected a quarter – over 500 million people – of the world’s population.
It was, given that as a species we had just barely come out of War World I, an opportunistic predator. In fact, the H1N1 flu was no more aggressive than previous influenzas strains. As a whole, the Spanish Flu wasn’t the killer The Black Plague, Smallpox, Ebola or Anthrax profess to be, it was just a rather nasty virus that somehow hit us at the right time; when as a species we were licking our wounds and down for the count.
Malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps, and hospitals, poor global hygiene, a strained sanitary system, economies collapsing… To quote Bill Murray
“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… Mass hysteria!”
This was the fertile ground on which Spanish Flu decided to grow its roots. It killed so efficiently because we were coming out of WWI, not because it was deadlier or more potent than other of its brethren.
And how did it kill?
How did it kill? Indiscriminately. Unlike Coronavirus, which has a steeper mortality rate the older the patient is, the Spanish Flu went for all age-groups. Teens, muscle-bound athletes, rich socialites, poor vagrants… it went for all their throats.
It was a virus that attacked the respiratory system, like all flu-like viruses, and then slowly killed its host over a prolonged period of time. It was transmitted into the air through respiratory droplets when a person coughed, sneezed or talked. Additionally, a person who touched something the soaked in those toxic molecules, and then touched his or her mouth, eyes or nose became infected.
What caused the Spanish Flu?
Globally, our scientific community when asked that question shrugs its shoulders and tries to evade the spotlight shone into their academic plothole. In other words, they are as ignorant today, as they were back in 1918.
Scientists don’t really know for sure where the Spanish Flu originated. The war had just finished, and soldiers were going home, soldiers that had marched through hell and back, soldiers that had been to places and outskirts previously unexplored. These very soldiers, dog tired, barely held together emotionally and physically, started spreading across the globe.
Unlike other wars, WWI had been a joint effort. The Kaiser had his troops, his political friends. The Allies had their troops and political friends. Suddenly, for the first time in history, people from the Middle East were fighting tooth and nail against people from the US. Paratroopers from Turkey were entrenched in bloody combat against French Legionnaires. And all this mass slaughter was being conducted in foreign soil under the constant barrage of chemical weapons and mother nature’s fury. It was a perfect storm.
When the armistice was reached, and everyone went back to their picket fences, H1N1 – wherever it had originated – had already clung like a stowaway on the retreating masses.
Some theories point out that the flu originated in France, others in China, others in the United States. No one really knows.
Facts of The Spanish Flu.
- One of the first reported cases occurred in Camp Fusion in Fort Riley, Kansas, on March 11, 1918.
- The H1N1 virus did not, despite its name, originate in Spain. What happened, and why it’s called the Spanish Flu, has more to do with free reporting and censorship than anything else. Allied countries and the Central Powers, after the war, needed to keep morale up. When news started to hit the press concerning the novel new virus that was wiping complete army camps off the face of the Earth, the Brits, The Yanks, and the French decided to crush the headlines. For over two months, while the disease was spreading like wildfire through the States and most of Europe, the censors were working overtime covering up the outbreak. In late May 1918, Spain – a neutral country with free media – began reporting on it through Madrid’s most prominent newspaper. King Alfonzo XIII had been struck by the virus. Hence, the portmanteau of Spanish Flu.
- When the Spanish Press started covering the flu since reports had been so widespread of how it was affecting nearby countries particularly France, the nickname the virus: “French Flu”.
More Facts About Spanish Flu
- President Woodrow Wilson reportedly contracted the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the Treaty Of Versailles which ultimately ended World War I.
- More US soldiers died from the 1918 flu than during battle in WWI. 36 percent of the Army became ill.
- There were no effective vaccines or antivirals back then. And, to make matters worts, large parts of the world had been felt with a shortage of physicians and other health workers. This last fact alone was instrumental to the Flu’s awe-inspiring fatality rates.
- The Flu was detrimental to most global economies. More than the Treaty Of Versailles and its Draconian tactics on the German economy, the Flu was instrumental to Nazism’s rise in power.
- Mass graves were dug by steam shovels and some of these places, now littering large swath of Europe and the US, are said to be haunted by the ghosts of those buried in the soil.
- Several Pacific Islands, despite their isolation, were particularly hit hard. Places like Nauru, Fiji, Tonga, and Western Samoa were devastated. This was mostly due to ships, such as the SS Talune, carrying the flu across the Ocean.
- Aspirin, which had been patented in the late 19th century by Bayer, found its trademark expired in 1917. Doctors, among the U.S. Surgeon General, were desperate for a cure. Most doctors, started recommending the use of Aspirin; up to 30 grams per day, a dose that nowadays is considered toxic. Many of the deaths attributed to Spanish Flu were, in fact, Aspirin poising. Anything over 4 grams is now considered unsafe. Over 33% of people, a 2009 paper published in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases, suffered from hyperventilation, pulmonary edema and buildup of fluids in the lungs due to this faulty medical faux-pass.
- Although the Black Death was more pernicious and horrible, there are more deaths attributed to Spanish Flu (H1N1).
But, what as a whole did H1N1 teach humanity?
One of those grand consequences is that humanity – as certain philosophers, historians and pundits estimate will happen with Coronavirus – started investing heavily in medication and scientific practices. We started to see the need for not only creating preventive measures to counteract outbreaks but on crafting offensive – not just defensive – forms of attack. We started to give vaccines and antivirals the due respect that they required.
Thanks to the Spanish Flu, we can now combat Coronavirus, and outbreaks of its kind, like the highly evolved, brainy bunch that we are. Sure, these knaves might catch us with our pants down, but in hindsight, like back in 1918, it wasn’t so much that we weren’t prepared… It was that we as humans think we are invincible. These monsters feed off our collective weaponized stupidity. They get us in a chokehold not because we aren’t tech ready to kick them in the teeth, but because our mentality – and those that govern us – are ostrich-like; our heads in the sand hoping it’ll just past. Luckily, when we as a whole – as a global community – decide to come together and present a united front we can quite rapidly rise to any challenge.
In 1918, H1N1 killed over a hundred million folks. In 2009, that same pig – now called Swine Flu – killed about 18,036 (According to WHO).
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