Thursday, May 14, 2015


By Anna Kathryn Lanier

This past flu season a lot was said in the news about how the vaccine didn't seem to be affective, mainly because the strain that seem to be striking people wasn't in the vaccine.  Still, I am for getting the vaccine, because none of us want to have a repeat of the epidemic of early 1900's. In his book "It's About Time: How Long History Took," Mike Flanagan writes on page 106 about the pandemic, which lasted three years and that:

"Chicago's crime rate dropped 43 percent. In one day 851 New Yorkers died. More American soldiers died of the "Spanish Flu" in 1918 than were killed on battlefields of World War I. Since epidemic bronchitis preceded the flu from 1915-1917 in France and England, few individuals had a prior immunity to this new lethal strain and often died within a week of exposure. In the United States, 500,000 deaths were recorded between March and November of 1918. Globally, about 40 million people died. Recent studies say the virus may have percolated within humans and pigs for several years until it grew lethal enough to emerge as history's worst influenza pandemic."

The flu really hits America in 1918.

March 11
At Fort Riley, Kansas, an Army private reports to the camp hospital just before breakfast complaining of fever, sore throat, and headache. He is quickly followed by another soldier with similar complaints. By noon, the camp’s hospital has dealt with over 100 ill soldiers. By week’s end, that number will jump to 500.

The West wasn't immune from the deadly disease either:

September 24
Edward Wagner, a Chicagoan newly settled in San Francisco, falls ill with influenza.
San Francisco public health officials had been downplaying the potential dangers posed by the flu. Dr. William Hassler, Chief of San Francisco’s Board of Health had gone so far as to predict that the flu would not even reach the city.

November 21
Sirens wail, signaling to San Franciscans that it is safe — and legal — to remove their protective face masks. At that point, 2,122 are dead due to influenza.

December 17
The chief clerk of the Navajo Indian reservation reports that influenza has taken the lives of more than 2,000 Navajos in Apache County, New Mexico.
The epidemic will continue its lethal campaign into 1919, ultimately killing upwards of 600,000 people. It will be deemed the worst epidemic in American history.

You may recall that this pandemic was mentioned in the holiday classic "It's A Wonderful Life." As an employee at the pharmacy, George Baily reads a telegram from the war department to Mr. Gower telling him his son died of the influenza. That causes Mr. Gower to poison some medicine by accident and George saves the day by noticing what had happened. When George is 'never born,' Mr. Gower was sentenced to years in prison for killing people that day.

Additional information can be found out:

You can read about your state (or one you may want to use in a story) during the pandemic here:

For a time line: (date facts above taken from here)

The CDC's website says:

Influenza (the flu) is serious.
Each year in the United States, on average:

Today, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications;
36,000 people die from flu.

For more information from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) check out their website:

And more information on flu shots and statistics can be found at WebMD:

If you're at high risk for the flu, young, old, or chronically sick, you should get your flu shot, before the flu gets you.

**Thus ends my public service announcement.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester 

This post first appeared on Chatting with Anna Kathryn Blog, October 16, 2008.


  1. Timely post, for me, Anna Kathryn. First, my maternal grandmother died of the Spanish Flu in 1919--she was 19 years old. Mother was three years old, and she had a little sister, one year old, and their father--my maternal grandfather, turned to alcohol...long story about how that affected my mother her entire life.
    In my current WIP, a soldier comes home in winter of 1919 and finds all of his family dead from the flu (except the grandfather, who was murdered).
    Thanks for this info...once again, it's a good source of information that will be in our Archives if anyone needs information about the Spanish flu.

  2. Anna Kathryn, sounds as if we each had an ancestor die from this pandemic. As I said in my Facebook post about this blog, my maternal grandfather had TB and this pandemic finished him. He died in February of 1919. My mom was so young she barely remembered him.

  3. I'm recovering from flu, had my shot last October. We're due for another since viruses are becoming resistant to meds. Good info, Anna K!

  4. I'm recovering from flu, had my shot last October. We're due for another since viruses are becoming resistant to meds. Good info, Anna K!

  5. I'm hesitant about flu vaccines. Our son who had to to have a barrage of vaccines and things when the Air Force sent him to the Middle East has had nothing but trouble since.

    I believe in eating well, getting exercise and staying away from people. ;) That's why we live out in the boonies with our closest neighbor a mile away.

    And I go to the store when there is the least amount of people. Not that I'm a hermit or anything...

  6. Great post, Anna. The flu epidemic of 1918 has always interested me. I've mentioned it in 2 of my stories. My Uncle John had it and almost didn't survive it.
    In all my years working in CCU and the ER, I only had the flu vaccine once, and only because we had to have it because of hospital policy. I never got the flu from work, not even after I came in contact with it day after day. In fact, I wonder if my contact with it in such an environment may have contributed to my seeming immunity. I don't know.
    I have to agree with Paty, that good nutrition and exercise certainly helps maintain a good immune system. Washing hands is major. I wipe off shopping carts before I use them and wash my hands when I get home. Washing your hands is the single most helpful thing a person can do other than vaccines.
    All the best to you, Anna. You certainly have initiated a great conversation.


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