March 18, 2014
The Response to the Influenza of 1918
At the time, the Influenza of 1918 was called the Spanish Flu. Spain was not involved in the expanding great war (i.e., World War I) and therefore was not censoring it's press. However, Germany, Britain, and America were censoring their newspapers for anything that would lower morale. Therefore, Spain was the first country to publish accounts of the pandemic (Barry 171 and Furman 326), even though the pandemic most likely started in either France or the United States. It was also unique in it's deadliness; it “killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century” (Barry 5). In the United States, the experience during the pandemic varied from location to location. Some areas were better off whereas some were hit horribly by the disease, such as Philadelphia. It also came as a shock to many, though some predicted it's coming; few thought it would strike with the speed and lethality that it did. Though the inherent qualities of the flu enabled its devastation of the country, the response to the flu was in part responsible as well. The response to the pandemic was reasonable, given the dire situation, but not sufficient enough to prevent unnecessary death and hardship, especially in Philadelphia.
In 1918, things were not going well for the United States in the influenza epidemic. The disease was spreading rapidly and killing many. The United States was also at war, and it was a struggle to keep fighting with the disease on their hands. Germany had also been affected by the disease, and it certainly caused them a great deal of trouble. But the suffering of Germany's army was not enough to alleviate America's difficulty in fighting the war. Influenza was also very hard hitting in the Navy because two strains were developing [SOURCE TO BE FOUND AGAIN]. For civilians, the flu remained relatively mild, because they could still go to work and spread the disease. If the civilian flu developed into something more dangerous, they would stay at home and be unable to spread the disease. However, in the military, if the flu was mild, they would stay in the trenches and most likely die and be unable to spread the disease. But if they got extremely sick, they would be sent to crowded hospital wards where the disease could run rampant and spread very easily. And it was the virulent strain that caused the devastation of the Influenza of 1918. Though there was not much the government could do to ease the disaster of the flu, their attempts were reasonable. The entire response, however, encompassed people and organizations outside of the government as well as those inside it, and their responses were reasonable as well. The main problem was there were too many sick people and not enough capable nurses and doctors, or even volunteers to keep up with them. In the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. Public Health Service, working at the...