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Because of the severity of its effects, the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic remains the most well-known of all outbreaks. Over a two-year period, it killed more than 50 million people worldwide (Ott et al. 1). According to Ott et al., the real cause of the pandemic remains uncertain (1). The pandemic is often referred to as "Spanish flu." This stemmed from the fact that Spain was the first nation to officially announce the crisis during World War I, at a time when the countries at war only allowed positive reporting. In the United States, the pandemic occurred in three waves in 1918 and 1919. The first one started in March 1918 and lasted the whole summer. The second wave was the most severe. It occurred in the fall of 1918 while the third was in the spring of 1919 (Garret 8). The impact of the pandemic communities and regions was different throughout the country. The effects were exacerbated by the World War I. As the troops moved through various regions, they carried the virus along promoting its spread. At the time, there was limited scientific knowledge about the virus and, therefore, mechanisms to combat its spread and effect were not profound.
The 1918 case had an unusual pattern of mortality in that majority of the victims were young adults, between age 20 to 40, with the majority being males (Garrett 8). Influenza before then was known to affect mainly the elderly and young child who have reduced immunity. People acted differently in response to the crisis. Schools were reluctant to close. However, care centers run by volunteers were kept open to attend to children with whose parents were sick to minimize exposure (America During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic). Though it was a positive measure, it disrupted family structure. The first casualty in Wisconsin was an 18-year old male who had just received his military physical. This was followed by the placement of placards on the doors of the people reported to having been infected. Children’s common places of entertainment closed down together with adult gatherings throughout the whole nation (America During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic).
The American economy was at the receiving end of the pandemic. The country tried to limit the rate of spread of the virus. The opening and closing hours of businesses were distributed to reduce congestion in public transport (low returns for transportation companies). Many small businesses closed citing the shortage of stuff and bankruptcy. In the midst of this economic failure, the liquor industry flourished. Liquor intake was promoted in Baltimore and California, probably to provide relief to the Americans (America During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic).
Politically, the epidemic had some effect. The warring nations' resources were on the verge of depletion as the war had consumed most of them. People, on the other hand, accepted government authority allowing public health departments to implement restrictive measures. The governments also started relying on scientists to develop vaccines. Differences arose between some states in the US. For instance, the Minnesota and St. Paul health commissioners had conflicting views on the control of the virus spread. Dr. Guilford, the Minnesota health commissioner, preferred closing of public places to achieve control. His counterpart Dr. Simon of St. Paul preferred isolation of individual cases (Ott et al 2). Some people think that it is after the epidemic that women started taking up leadership positions because the crisis had claimed more male lives than females.
The above effects of the epidemic raise concerns about the possibility of another instance happening. Several other cases have been reported. I had an encounter with an outbreak in September of 2009, in South Korea. I got infected with Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (AH1N1). My body temperature would go as high as 105 Fahrenheit. I experienced a breakdown in family structure when I was secluded in my room for two weeks. My mother would cover everything (such as remote controller and door handles) in plastic before I touched it.
Measures should, therefore, be put in place to ensure that another epidemic doesn’t occur. Governments should also be prepared to handle the effects of another outbreak in case it happens.
Ott, Miles, et al. "Lessons learned from the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic in Minneapolis and
St. Paul, Minnesota." Public Health Reports 122.6 (2007): 803-810.
Garrett, T. A. Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Implications for a Modern-day
Pandemic. Working paper CA0721, 2010.
Digital Public Library of America: America During the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.
Retrieved from https://dp.la/exhibitions/exhibits/show/1918-influenza/impact
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