Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-1920

In 1918, the greatest health disaster in human history unfolded.  A influenza, more deadly than any seen before circled the globe.

It was an unusual flu:  it targeted not just the very young and elderly, but the healthiest of the population.  For pregnant women it was especially lethal:  almost 70% of pregnant women who caught the flu ended up dying.

There are many books written about this flu.  Students in 9th grade just did a FACT or OPINION discussion about the flu.  They examined many primary documents about this serious event.

I remember asking my grandmother about this.  My grandmother, Mae Tigner, was born in 1902.  She told me that she was told to "stay in" and communities stopped socializing as the flu spread from city to city.

In Alaska, the Inuit or Native American population suffered worse:  the communities had to face an onslaught of the flu, measles and diphtheria.  Some communities lost everyone:  only months later when the spring thaw began did people discover whole villages that had succumbed to illness.

The flu epidemic was quickly "forgotten" compared to the disaster it was.  It was lumped into the general disaster of World War I and the Russian Revolution.  Also, the fact that so many died meant that mourning the victims was done not just privately but collectively.  As I told my students, most of them had relatives that suffered from this flu, or even died from it.