Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918
The deadliest virus in modern history, perhaps of all time, was the 1918 Spanish Flu. It killed about 20 to 50 million people worldwide, perhaps more. The total death toll is unknown because medical records were not kept in many areas.
The pandemic hit during World War I and devastated military troops. In the United States, for instance, more servicemen were killed from the flu than from the war itself. The Spanish flu was fatal to a higher proportion of young adults than most flu viruses.
The pandemic started mildly, in the spring of 1918, but was followed by a much more severe wave in the fall of 1918. The war likely contributed to the devastating mortality numbers, as large outbreaks occurred in military forces living in close quarters. Poor nutrition and the unsanitary conditions of war camps had an effect.
A third wave occurred in the winter and spring of 1919, and a fourth, smaller wave occurred in a few areas in spring 1920. Initial symptoms of the flu were typical: sore throat, headache, and fever. The flu often progressed rapidly to cause severe pneumonia and sometimes hemorrhage in the lungs and mucus membranes. A characteristic feature of severe cases of the Spanish Flu was heliotrope cyanosis, where the patient’s face turned blue from lack of oxygen in the cells. Death usually followed within hours or days.
Modern medicine such as vaccines, antivirals, and antibiotics for secondary infections were not available at that time, so medical personnel couldn’t do much more than try to relieve symptoms.
The flu ended when it had infected enough people that those who were susceptible had either died or developed immunity.
Did you understand the text?
Please answer the following questions of understanding:
Which pandemic is the deadliest in modern history?
a The Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic in 1793
b The Spanish Flu in 1918
c The Covid-19 coronavirus in 2020
d The bubonic plague in the 14th century
The Spanish Flu pandemic occurred during which war?
a World War I
b The French Revolution
c World War II
d The Spanish-American War
Where did the Spanish flu originate?
c United States
d That information is not provided
Why are total deaths for the Spanish Flu not known?
a No one wants to know how bad it was
b No one cared because of the war
c Many areas did not keep medical records
d Most medical records were destroyed in the war
When was the first wave of the Spanish Flu pandemic?
a Summer 1918
b Winter 1918
c Fall 1918
d Spring 1918
What contributed to deaths from the flu in military personnel?
a Poor nutrition
b All of the above
c Close quarters
d Unsanitary conditions
What is a characteristic feature of serious cases of the Spanish Flu?
a Liver failure
b Extremely high fever
c Face turning blue
What caused the Spanish Flu pandemic to end?
a Those who were susceptible had either died or were immune
b The end of the war caused better conditions
c Improved medical care
d They created a vaccine for it