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Jordan Johnson

8th Hour
Virus Report

The Spanish Flu of 1918

The Spanish Flu of 1918 was, and still is, the most deadly epidemic of all time. It
killed more people in one year than the Black Plague killed all together. It killed between
20-40 million people (which is a conservative figure). The death toll was higher than that
of World War I.
This deadly flu infected a fifth of everyone in the world, and 28% of all
Americans. The Spanish Flu killed just as many Americans in World War I as the actual
battles did. It even lowered the average American life expectancy twelve whole years!
What made this flu so scary was the age of its victims. It killed mostly 20-40 year olds.
The Spanish flu was the most virulent flu that mankind had ever seen.
People died alarmingly quickly after contracting the flu. Some people had only
just gotten it a few hours before death. Victims would suffocate to death as they
desperately struggled to clear their lungs of mucous and blood. It spread rapidly from
person to person, and reached across the entire globe.
The exact origin of the Spanish Flu is still unknown. Some people speculated that
it was a result of biological warfare by the German army. It was also thought that trench
warfare and different gases used in World War I could have created the mutated flu virus.
A study done at the time suggested that humid climates escalated the mortality rate of the
Spanish Flu, with more people dying in hotter climates. The name "Spanish Flu" came
from the very high amount of deaths in Spain, where the flu allegedly killed 8 million
The Spanish flu occurred in two waves. The first wave hit America hard, but
appeared to subside. However, after the war was done, soldiers began coming home with
the flu, spreading it all over again. To make things worse, people held huge parades and
gatherings in celebration of the end of the war. This caused a huge resurgence in flu
cases that fall and winter. The virus killed 200,000 people in just October.
Injured troops returning home from war, along with many flu cases, backed up
hospitals and clinics. Physicians were needed for the war, so medical school students had
to take car of the sick. Unfortunately, many physicians contracted the flu that they were
trying to treat.
Doctors were running out of ways to try to treat the often incurable Spanish Flu.
The proteins of the virus had been mutated and were not the same as the normal seasonal
influenza, so no vaccine was available. The government soon passed many ordinances to
prevent the spread of the flu. Some towns required signed documents just to come into
the town. Funeral services were also limited to only fifteen minutes. Stores weren't
allowed to have sales to attract a lot of customers. People that didn't follow the
ordinances had to pay hefty fines.
The Spanish Flu outbreaks led to many changes in modern medicine. Scientists
and doctors became fascinated with how the outbreak began, and what could be done to
prevent another one from occurring. It also underscored the importance of making
In the end, the Spanish Flu of 1918 ran its course. It killed many people and
spread feat across the panic. Hopefully we can learn from the Spanish Flu so that we are
more prepared to fight off another epidemic.