I’ve been immersed in 1918 for quite a while a now, working on a novel about the Pandemic Flu.
The pandemic flu of 1918-1919 killed more people worldwide than WWI, the Great War.
Estimates vary, but it’s believed about 100 million people died of this virulent plague, and very possibly even more than that because many deaths went unreported.
An influenza epidemic usually results in higher mortality at the beginning and end of the age spectrum: infants and small children, and the elderly. This flu was different and completely unexpected as most of the fatalities were in the 20 to 40 years of age group.
People in their prime of life.
Many people fell ill in the morning and were dead by midnight, that’s how deadly it was.
It reached a point in many American cities where the dead were wrapped in sheets and put out on the front porch. Morgues overflowed. They ran out of coffins. Public health nurses who bravely went into homes would find scenarios like this: Mother dead in the same bed with the father ill, dead or dying children, and no one to care for them.
Hospitals were overwhelmed, and many doctors and nurses died along with their patients.
In New York City alone, over 100,00 children were left orphans when both of their parents died.
If you go back into your own family history it’s quite possible you have an ancestor who died in this pandemic. Or if you happen to be in an old cemetery and see many deaths in the same family in 1918, again, it’s quite likely the flu killed them.
In my family history, there was a fifteen year old girl who died in 1918. I can’t know for sure, but it’s likely it was the pandemic flu.
An excellent book of the Pandemic Flu of 1918 is John Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.
The scary thing about the Pandemic Flu is that the experts say that it will happen again.
Not if, but when.