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Fri Feb 28, 2020, 09:34 PM

How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America


How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America
The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. And it may have begun in the United States
Camp Funston
https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/zYtJaSFoNVcRsvDNyVUVXEKmkGE=/800x600/filters:no_upscale()/
An emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918. “Of the 12 men who slept in my squad room, 7 were ill at one time,” a soldier recalled. (New Contributed Photographs Collection / otis historical Archives / National Museum of Health and Medicine)
By John M. Barry
November 2017


Haskell County, Kansas, lies in the southwest corner of the state, near Oklahoma and Colorado. In 1918 sod houses were still common, barely distinguishable from the treeless, dry prairie they were dug out of. It had been cattle country—a now bankrupt ranch once handled 30,000 head—but Haskell farmers also raised hogs, which is one possible clue to the origin of the crisis that would terrorize the world that year. Another clue is that the county sits on a major migratory flyway for 17 bird species, including sand hill cranes and mallards. Scientists today understand that bird influenza viruses, like human influenza viruses, can also infect hogs, and when a bird virus and a human virus infect the same pig cell, their different genes can be shuffled and exchanged like playing cards, resulting in a new, perhaps especially lethal, virus.

We cannot say for certain that that happened in 1918 in Haskell County, but we do know that an influenza outbreak struck in January, an outbreak so severe that, although influenza was not then a “reportable” disease, a local physician named Loring Miner—a large and imposing man, gruff, a player in local politics, who became a doctor before the acceptance of the germ theory of disease but whose intellectual curiosity had kept him abreast of scientific developments—went to the trouble of alerting the U.S. Public Health Service. The report itself no longer exists, but it stands as the first recorded notice anywhere in the world of unusual influenza activity that year. The local newspaper, the Santa Fe Monitor, confirms that something odd was happening around that time: “Mrs. Eva Van Alstine is sick with pneumonia...Ralph Lindeman is still quite sick...Homer Moody has been reported quite sick...Pete Hesser’s three children have pneumonia ...Mrs J.S. Cox is very weak yet...Ralph Mc-Connell has been quite sick this week...Mertin, the young son of Ernest Elliot, is sick with pneumonia,...Most everybody over the country is having lagrippe or pneumonia.”

Several Haskell men who had been exposed to influenza went to Camp Funston, in central Kansas. Days later, on March 4, the first soldier known to have influenza reported ill. The huge Army base was training men for combat in World War I, and within two weeks 1,100 soldiers were admitted to the hospital, with thousands more sick in barracks. Thirty-eight died. Then, infected soldiers likely carried influenza from Funston to other Army camps in the States—24 of 36 large camps had outbreaks—sickening tens of thousands, before carrying the disease overseas. Meanwhile, the disease spread into U.S. civilian communities.

The influenza virus mutates rapidly, changing enough that the human immune system has difficulty recognizing and attacking it even from one season to the next. A pandemic occurs when an entirely new and virulent influenza virus, which the immune system has not previously seen, enters the population and spreads worldwide. Ordinary seasonal influenza viruses normally bind only to cells in the upper respiratory tract—the nose and throat—which is why they transmit easily. The 1918 pandemic virus infected cells in the upper respiratory tract, transmitting easily, but also deep in the lungs, damaging tissue and often leading to viral as well as bacterial pneumonias.

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https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/?fbclid=IwAR2_jpJW-p8Lxk4ajzilrQPjcgEvsP7HCkYv-Dzlt4CY8806l6LsV-5BYRo

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Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America (Original post)
babylonsister Feb 2020 OP
TygrBright Feb 2020 #1
BigmanPigman Feb 2020 #2
safeinOhio Feb 2020 #3
RandySF Feb 2020 #4
Staph Feb 2020 #5
Blue_playwright Feb 2020 #9
LTG Feb 2020 #6
appalachiablue Feb 2020 #8
dalton99a Feb 2020 #7
yellowcanine Feb 2020 #10
Lars39 Feb 2020 #11

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2020, 09:53 PM

1. A sobering reminder of the single most effective - but difficult - preventive measure.

Reduce or eliminate instances of large numbers of people in close proximity sharing the same air for any length of time. and then leaving, taking the pathogen with them.

Airplanes, interstate buses. Arenas, auditoriums. Classrooms. Crowded restaurants. Theaters. Schools or workplaces where human density is high and quarters are close. Department of Motor Vehicle waiting rooms...

Shut them down.

Shut them all down, until we have effective testing and treatment protocols and/or an effective vaccine.

Keep an eye on other gathering places. Food trucks, take-away and delivery are safer than sit-there-elbow-to-elbow restaurants.

While masking does not prevent the contraction end of the transmission, a widely-accepted and enforced masking protocol for public places like grocery stores, food markets, rideshare shuttles, polling places, post offices, etc. will lower the incidence of infected individuals (especially those not yet aware they are carriers) passing along the pathogens.

Places that can implement such preventive measures will see lower infection rates and lower mortality.

Such places are not likely to include America, however.

I would love to be proven wrong.

somberly,
Bright

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2020, 10:12 PM

2. Phila got hit the hardest after they held an outdoor parade.

"Philadelphia was the hardest-hit city in the United States. After the Liberty Loan parade on September 28, thousands of people became infected. The city morgue, built to hold 36 bodies, was now faced with the arrival of hundreds within a few days. The entire city was quarantined and nearly 12,000 city residents died. Overall, in the United States, five out of every thousand people fell victim to the flu."

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/flu-epidemic-hits-philadelphia

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2020, 10:25 PM

3. My grand mother had it.

Dad remembered the guy next door tossing food over the fence because he wouldn’t come in the yard. She did survive.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2020, 10:36 PM

4. It almost killed my grandmother.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2020, 11:10 PM

5. My grandfather nearly died of the Spanish flu.

His wife (and unborn child) died. Grandpa married my biological grandmother three years later. In a sad way, I exist only because grandmother Wilhelmina died of the flu.


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Response to Staph (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 29, 2020, 02:58 AM

9. Similar tale here...

My grandmother was poor and married at 14. Her first child died of tetanus very young and then the 1918 flu took her husband. She married a few years later to my grandfather.

Fascinating In This piece about viruses potentially combining.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2020, 11:58 PM

6. It killed both of my maternal grandmother's parents

They lived on a farm in rural, middle of nowhere, Tennessee. Grandma’s mother died in 1918 and her father in 1919. She and her sister cared for their parents after they became ill, as well as taking care of the farm. Grandma was 15 and her sister 17. Even so, they both went on to graduate from college, one a teacher (English and Latin) the other a nurse.

A lot of remarkable and strong women in my family history, including my own mother.

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Response to LTG (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 29, 2020, 02:09 AM

8. Great women and strong family history, keep that alive. Tx for posting.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Sat Feb 29, 2020, 12:03 AM

7. Great article.


A ravaged lung (at the National Museum of Health and Medicine) from a U.S. soldier killed by flu in 1918. (Cade Martin)

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Sat Feb 29, 2020, 03:53 PM

10. The flu killed my grandfather's first wife in 1918.

He married my grandma in 1919. So without the Spanish Flu I might not be here.

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Response to yellowcanine (Reply #10)

Sat Feb 29, 2020, 07:38 PM

11. Both of my maternal grandparents' first spouses died of it.

I wouldn’t have existed either.

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