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The Forgotten Pandemic The 1918 Flu Epidemic. Presentation by Robert Martinez Primary Content Source: Wikipedia “Spanish Flu.” Images as cited. I had a little bird,

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The forgotten pandemic the 1918 flu epidemic l.jpg

The Forgotten PandemicThe 1918 Flu Epidemic

Presentation by Robert Martinez

Primary Content Source: Wikipedia “Spanish Flu.”

Images as cited.

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I had a little bird,

Its name was Enza,

I opened the window,

And in-flew-enza.

American Skipping Rhyme (circa 1918.)

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The 1918 flu pandemic, commonly referred to as the Spanish flu, was an influenza pandemic that spread to nearly every part of the world.

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It was caused by an unusually virulent and deadly influenza A virus strain called H1N1. Historical data is inadequate in identifying the geographic origin of the virus.

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Most of its victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or otherwise weakened immune-system patients.

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The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific Islands.

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It is estimated that anywhere from 20 to 100 million people were killed worldwide. The pandemic is estimated to have affected up to one billion people, half the world’s population at the time.

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In the United States, the disease was first observed at Fort Riley, Kansas on March 4, 1918, and in Queens, New York, on March 11, 1918.

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The Allies of WW I came to call it the Spanish flu, primarily because the pandemic received greater press attention after it moved from France into Spain in November 1918. Spain was neutral during WWI, therefore, the press was not censured as in other warring countries.

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Modern scientists have used tissue samples from frozen victims to reproduce the virus for study. Among the conclusions of this research is that the virus kills by a overreaction of the body’s immune system).

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Therefore, the strong immune systems of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults caused fewer deaths.

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The global mortality rate from the pandemic is not known. Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million in its first 25 weeks ( a fast killer.)


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This pandemic has been described as “the greatest medical holocaust in history” and may have killed more people than the Black Death.

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Approximate DeathsWorldwide Samples *

  • India – 17 million

  • Japan – 390,000

  • U.S. – 675,000

  • England – 250,000

  • France – 400,000

  • Canada – 50,000


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This huge death toll was caused by an extremely high infection rate of up to 50%, and the extreme severity of the symptoms.


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One of the most striking of the complications was hemorrhaging (bleeding) from the mucous membranes, especially from the nose, stomach, and intestines, ears, and lesions in the skin.

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Symptoms included a blue tint to the face and coughing up blood caused by severe obstruction of the lungs.

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In some cases, the virus caused uncontrollable hemorrhaging that filled the lungs, and patients drowned in their own body fluids (pneumonia.)

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While WWI did not cause the flu, the close troop quarters and massive troop movements accelerated the pandemic, increasing transmission.

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Some researchers speculate that the soldiers’ immune systems were weakened by malnourishment, and the stresses of combat and chemical attacks, increasing their susceptibility to the disease.

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The virus helped tip the balance of power in the war towards the Allied cause. The flu hit the Central Powers before it the Allied Powers, and the mortality rates in Germany and Austria were considerably higher than Britain and France.

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An additional factor of the Spanish flu (like today) was increased travel. Modern transportation systems made it easier for people to spread the disease quickly to communities worldwide.

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The Great Influenza was the source of much fear in citizens around the world. Inflaming that fear was the fact that world governments and health officials were downplaying the situation.

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While the panic from WWI was dwindling, governments attempted to keep morale up by spreading lies and downplaying the influenza.

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While medical scientists attempted to discover a cure or vaccine, there was virtually no assistance from world governments. The war in Europe had become the #1 priority.

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Many historians have called the Spanish flu the “forgotten pandemic.”

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The majority of deaths, in both WWI and in the Spanish Flu epidemic, were young adults. The deaths caused by the flu may have been overlooked due to the large numbers of deaths in the war.

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In addition, during this time period, pandemic outbreaks were not uncommon; typhoid, yellow fever, diphtheria, and cholera all occurred near the same time period.

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Notable Epidemic Survivors

Presidents Woodrow Wilson & Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Spanish Flu Survivors

Famed animator Walt Disney

Silent film super-star Mary Pickford

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Spanish Flu Survivors

U.S. General John J. Pershing, WWI

Wilhelm II, German Emperor, WWI

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Notable Flu Survivor

Leo Szilard, Inventor

Nuclear Chain Reaction

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Swine Flu 2009

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Swine Flu 2009

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Swine Flu 2009

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Swine Flu 2009

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Texas cancels high school athletics as flu

cases grow to 16

Comal ISD/New Braunfels ISD closing all schools

SWINE FLU: 1st Death in US is Child in Texas;

All Comal schools closed until May 11

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