The children's great grandfather, Olaf A Anderson, was visiting away from home when he died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. How many other people buried in the cemeteries in New Solum Township died of the flu? How many of the tombstones dated 1918 represent the flu?
The Great Influenza 1918 - 1919 Also known as the Spanish Flu (although it is likely that it began in the United States), the Great Influenza was most likely the deadliest plague in history. The extremely virulent influenza virus killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people in the space of just six months. And unlike other influenza outbreaks, it didn’t just target the old, and the very young. One study says that it struck 8 to ten percent of all young adults.
The numbers killed by this flu are even more staggering, when you consider that the world’s population at the time was just 1.8 billion. A similar outbreak today, therefore, could kill 350 MILLION people in a similar time span.
During a typical flu season in the United States, hospital respirator use approaches 100 percent. In a pandemic flu outbreak, most people would not be able to get respirators or hospital care.
This nightmare scenario is what drives the concern about the swine flu, and the avian, or bird flu outbreaks. Memories of the Great Influenza are what sparked the media frenzy over such things as the Swine Flu outbreak of the 1970s and the SARS incident of the early 2000s.
Tomorrow: The Black Plague
The pandemic was no doubt magnified by conditions existing during World War I, especially with large numbers of young men packed into very close quarters in military barracks. The flu is said to have begun as an isolated mutation in Haskell County, Kansas, and transmitted through the movement of American soldiers from base to base.