The Flu Epidemic
• The Flu Epidemic was often referred to as the
Spanish Flu—not because the Flu originated
there but because Spain, a neutral nation
during WWI, released reports about it.
• Nations involved in the War were hesitant to
report on the issue fearing that it would crush
• On March 11, 1918, the Flu broke out in Fort
Riley, Kansas, among some 100 soldiers. A few
days later, 500 prisoners at San Quentin
succumbed to similar symptoms. Because the
US was so preoccupied with the War, little was
• When American “doughboys” crossed the
Atlantic to Europe, they brought the deadly
disease with them.
• The deadliest wave of the epidemic came in
September of 1918 in Boston as men began to
mobilize for War came into contact with
others. In October alone, 200,000 Americans
would die as a result of infection.
• Average life expectancy drops by almost 15
• Unlike a typical strain of flu—which target the
elderly or the very young—this strain attacked
those between 20-40 years old. This amounts
to 1/5 of the world’s population.
• The US makes a major mistake. Overwhelmed
by the concern with morale the government
does not warn citizens of the danger.
• No treatment.
• Gravediggers and coffins become a
commodity. Many are left unburied which, of
course, contributes to the spread of disease.
• The “flu” would take almost 30% of the US
• It became illegal to have a funeral last more
than 15 minutes.
• Many actually believed this to be the
beginning of biological warfare. The general
belief was that the Germans had launched the
virus as “payback”.