The Spanish Flu of 1918-20 (5/5)

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The 1918-20 Influenza pandemic is commonly known as the Spanish Flu, as that was the country in which it was first reported appearing. It is the deadliest global pandemic in modern history, causing the deaths of a record 50-100 million people – more than the First World War which had occurred just shortly prior. To this day, what exactly caused the pandemic is not well understood by medical experts and historians alike. Many theorise that it was the poor conditions in the trenches of World War One that led to the outbreak and swift spread of the disease across Europe and then onto the rest of the world, whereas others claim this was not the case. Whatever the origin, it is undeniable that the virus was exceptionally deadly, and is estimated to have effect around 500 million people – approximately ⅓ of the world population at that time. The impact of the disease was compounded by the terrible wartime conditions that saw a mass movement of troops, overcrowded trenches and hospitals as well as the deliberate suppression of information regarding the viruses by wartime governments in order to avoid panic and keep public attention shifted towards the war. The first recorded wave of the pandemic was fairly mild – many were made sick, however the majority recovered after several days and fatalities were comparatively low. Further recorded waves were far more devastating, with the second wave occurring just a few months after the first, this one much more deadlier than the last. Ordinarily healthy people who contracted the virus were reported to have died within hours of displaying the symptoms, which included heavy coughing, fever, and suffocation from a build-up of fluid in the lungs. One group of people particularly vulnerable to the disease were World War One servicemen, who made up a sizable bulk of the victims. Usually, in a pandemic, those of the younger generations were typically more resistant to the outbreak of disease. However, the Spanish Flu did not discriminate, as represented by the total death toll count recorded once it had subsided. In the summer of 1919, when the virus seemed to have finally died out, a staggering number of around 228,000 people had died in Britain, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in its history.

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