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Archive for the tag “Spanish flu”

Did I just Sneeze or is That the Tallest Man in the World ?

There is lots of useless information roaming around our little skulls. There are some epochal moments that we rightfully retain, but what is important to some might not be important to others. Do we need to know the difference between peanut brittle and peanut brickle?  No we don’t. Do we need to know if Daryl Hannah lusted for Neil Young when she was with Jackson Browne? I say not important. Do we need to know why the Egyptian Culture and Tourism Ministry thought it was a good idea to show the worlds tallest man 8’3″ Turkish farmer Sultan Kosen, with the smallest woman in the world 22 inch Jyoth Amge from India, in front of the Gizah Pyramid as a way to promote tourism for Egypt? Let it slide.

But I have come across something that was and is important and it touches on current issues and events:  that the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history. It killed, in 15 months, more than AIDS has killed in 40 years and more than the bubonic plague killed in a century. It is estimated that it took the lives of 50 to 100 million people worldwide. Close to 700,000 Americans died.

It is thought to have started in Haskell County, Kansas. It was reported that soldiers from Haskell County went to Camp Funston in central Kansas then came down with the flu.  Then soldiers from Funston went to other Army camps across the nation and eventually to Europe to fight in World War I. Few alarms went off indicating that this was something to be taken seriously. Due to the war, most countries involved gave it little attention because they wanted to keep their fighting resolve in high gear. The only attention it got was when it swept through

UNITED STATES – 1918: Baseball players, one batting & one catching, with umpire standing behind plate, wearing masks which they thought would keep them from getting flu during influenza epidemic of 1918. (Photo by Underwood)

Spain and sickened the King. The press in Spain, which was not at war, wrote extensively about the disease unlike the censored press of the warring countries (including the U.S.) Hence the name ” Spanish Flu”.

What also proved to be deadly was the lack of acknowledgement from authorities that this disease was killing tens of thousands from Alaska to Africa every day. Against this background, while influenza bled into American life, public officials who were determined to keep moral up, started to lie. An official stated “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms… the force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true of false.”  “There is no cause for alarm or panic” said officials. Meanwhile death was at the door. 12,000 people died in Philly in 6 weeks, 53% of the population of San Antonio got sick, 14 % of the inhabitants of Fiji died in 16 days, and in some villages from Alaska to Gambia -everyone died.  50% of all U.S.deaths in WWI were caused by the flu. Many survived the illness (Ray Chandler, Walt Disney, Georgia O’Keefe, FDR, and Woody Wilson), but many did not (both the Dodge Brothers ( co-founders of the Dodge car company), Phoebe Hearst (mom of William Randolph Hearst) and Fred Trump (grandfather of current President.)

All this happened 100 years ago and there is no current pandemic on the horizon. There are steps to be taken to ease one’s mind when thinking about the flu. Some get flu shots, some wear masks, others drink more rum. This is important stuff to be aware of.  It was not that long ago and if something like this happens again we can only hope that the Powers That Be don’t manage the truth, but tell the truth. Groove.

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