During the final months of World War I, one of the most devastating outbreaks of flu swept through our world, claiming more lives than the war itself.
The influenza virus has gone by many names including H1N1, Swine Flu and Spanish Flu. Infecting approximately 500 million people, half the world’s population at the time, H1N1 claimed the lives of 10% of the people it infected, within the region of 50 million deaths.
The origin of 1918 flu outbreak is not totally clear, but there are three mainly theories.
The first theory is that is stemmed from the war itself. Malnourished soldiers in unhygienic, cramped conditions would cause immune systems to deteriorate rapidly and many propose this to be the reason for the outbreak.
The next theory on the origins of the flu is Northern China. Experts say it originated there in late 1917 and quickly made its way to Europe amongst the 140,000 Chinese workers that were hired for manual labor by the British and French governments to free up the duties of WWI soldiers.
The final theory doesn’t pin point any one location, but suggests there are many places it could have originated. Despite being called Spanish flu, it’s unlikely the virus originated in Spain. Other countries suggested to be the origin are France and Great Britain, as is the United States where the first case was reported on March 11, 1918 on a Kansas military base.
1918 was the first pandemic caused by H1N1. The second was the outbreak of swine flu in 2009 which infected 1,632,710 people and caused 18,449 deaths.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 is shaping up to be a far greater threat than the 2009 outbreak.