Have you gotten your flu shot yet? You need to do that soon and be grateful there is such a thing.
Marilee Stripling gave us a talk recently at a Texas City Civic Club meeting about the Spanish Influenza, the pandemic that killed as many people in 1918 as were being killed in World War I.
They call it a pandemic if it spreads all over the place, and Stripling said this one went around the world twice, beginning in the spring and finally winding down in December 1917.
It was called the Spanish flu because it was first reported publicly by newspapers in Spain. So many other countries were preoccupied by the war and their newspapers reflected that.
Remember the “bird flu?” Well, that’s the strain of this epidemic, though nobody knew how to recognize a virus at that time. There were no microscopes strong enough.
There was no cure and very little treatment. Bed rest and liquids. Sound familiar?
Civilians isolated themselves but the military people were all gathered together. Many of them were isolated on ships were they were sent, mostly to die.
Some people went to the hospital, mingled in with all the other sick people, and soon the nurses and doctors were sick, along with the ambulance drivers and everybody else that came in contact with patients.
The only other disease that killed more people was the Black Plague in the 14th century, which took an estimated 75 million lives.
When health professionals tried to organize against it, the people were apathetic, but eventually the public health people closed all the schools and theaters and anywhere that people gathered in big crowds.
The war ended in November and most of the flu was over by December.
The Germans declared had it not been for the flu pandemic, they would have won the war.
Stripling said many have said that had that happened, there would have been no Adolf Hitler and no World War II. Interesting to speculate about, I guess.
Two-thirds of the people who got Spanish flu died and as the strain of virus continued, it mutated, creating a disease more and more resistant to any kind of treatment. Thousands and thousands died.
The same mutation happens today, of course, and the people trying to plan for the annual siege of flu try to estimate what brand of the disease they are going to get and plan accordingly.
So far, that seems to be working pretty well. We have had no more pandemics.
Cross your fingers. And get your shot.