The Spanish Influenza: A Global Epidemic University Of British Columbia Research Paper

1431 words - 6 pages

The Spanish Influenza: A Global Epidemic
In 1918, while the world was preoccupied with war, the Spanish influenza quickly made its way around the globe as entire populations were caught unawares. Its severe and often lethal symptoms, as well as unusual characteristic of infecting those who were young and fit rather than infants and the elderly, were unlike anything that had been experienced before. Evidence suggests that the suddenness and severity of it was fed by the emergence of urban areas as well as crowded wartime conditions on the front, and took advantage of the rise in globalization and the connectivity it allowed. It’s unforeseen effects could be seen in the thousands of infected, both on the frontline and at home, placing strains on medicine and the distribution of resources between both. Other parts of the world were no exception to the epidemic, where disease made worse the living conditions and left many countries in a state of instability and unrest.
In the early twentieth century, much of the Western world was experiencing a shift from living in agrarian communities as they had for centuries to living in more urban environments that improved their standards of living. This urbanization and its densely occupied areas were a key factor in the quick spread of disease, as well as a growing population that provided an abundance of healthy bodies for the virus to thrive. A number of reports made between January - February 1918 were published by the Santa Fe Monitor, the first mentioning only two sick patients and the last made only a month later stated that “Most everybody over the country is having the lagrippe [sic] or pneumonia”.[footnoteRef:1] Additionally, the increase in intercontinental travel became a way for it to be transmitted over vast distances, beginning in the United States. The United States’ involvement in the Great War meant that many young American men who had been exposed to the virus were being shipped out to western Europe to fight with the Allies, thus becoming vessels of disease. Here on the Western front, men on both sides of the conflict would spend many months living in close quarters in the trenches, acting like a catalyst that enabled the virus to rapidly spread and develop more severe symptoms. In order to keep their soldiers capable of fighting, many doctors and medical practitioners were needed on the front lines. However, because the virus was extremely contagious, medics that were treating the sick men eventually became infected too which led to a shortage of staff. The British Medical Journal published a report on the stating that “the calls on the civil medical profession had been heavy, and, simultaneously, severe fighting on a great scale on all the fronts had imposed additional strain on our medical resources”.[footnoteRef:2] British and American forces both had a high demand for doctors, which in turn left to many civilians at home without access to any proper medical care. [1: “Early Reports of...

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