‘An expert on the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic wrote a piece 2 yrs ago on lessons of why that outbreak was so deadly.
His conclusion: govt officials, desperate to keep morale up during WWI, didn’t tell the truth.
And because the government lied, more people died.’
-Ian Bassin, former associate White House Council
How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America
The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. And it may have begun in the United States
Although some researchers argue that the 1918 pandemic began elsewhere, in France in 1916 or China and Vietnam in 1917, many other studies indicate a U.S. origin. The Australian immunologist and Nobel laureate Macfarlane Burnet, who spent most of his career studying influenza, concluded the evidence was “strongly suggestive” that the disease started in the United States and spread to France with “the arrival of American troops.” Camp Funston had long been considered as the site where the pandemic started until my historical research, published in 2004, pointed to an earlier outbreak in Haskell County.
Wherever it began, the pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis. An exact global number is unlikely ever to be determined, given the lack of suitable records in much of the world at that time. But it’s clear the pandemic killed more people in a year than AIDS has killed in 40 years, more than the bubonic plague killed in a century.
The impact of the pandemic on the United States is sobering to contemplate: Some 670,000 Americans died.
A ravaged lung (at the National Museum of Health and Medicine) from a U.S. soldier killed by flu in 1918.(Cade Martin)
We are arguably as vulnerable—or more vulnerable—to another pandemic as we were in 1918. Today top public health experts routinely rank influenza as potentially the most dangerous “emerging” health threat we face. Earlier this year, upon leaving his post as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden was asked what scared him the most, what kept him up at night. “The biggest concern is always for an influenza pandemic…[It] really is the worst-case scenario.” So the tragic events of 100 years ago have a surprising urgency—especially since the most crucial lessons to be learned from the disaster have yet to be absorbed.
Against this background, while influenza bled into American life, public health officials, determined to keep morale up, began to lie.