Causes of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

1204 Words5 Pages
“It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. – John Barry

Many historians call the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 the deadliest disease outbreak of all time. As many as 100 million people were killed as a direct result of this disease (Taubenberger 1). The Great Pandemic affected everyone, the prosperous and the poor, developed and underdeveloped nations. Entire villages in Alaska were wiped out because of the viral disease (Public Health Service). The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 was caused by World War One, a high volume of immigration, and poor sanitary conditions.

First reports of the virus came in from a small county in Kansas. In March of 1918, reports from Haskell County stated that they were with eighteen cases of the flu (Barry 92). After Haskell County, the disease spread to a highly overpopulated army base. When the soldiers were shipped off to Europe, so was the infection. In the ghastly world of World War One, death was abundant, there were numerous ways to get killed. One could get shot, blown to pieces, or die from a silent killer, disease. One day, a German soldier, could go hand-to-hand with a Russian and that night sleep next to a dead Frenchman. Living in such close proximity to so many different people from so many different countries made disease spread very easily. When the soldiers returned to their home countries, they brought the influenza virus with them. The poorly hygienic world of trench warfare was the perfect place for the flu to thrive and grow. In the trenches, no one washed, food was scarce, and corpses were abundant with missing appendages. The soldiers were poorly nourished and chronically dehydr...

... middle of paper ...

... how World War One, high levels of immigration, and poor living conditions contributed to the rapid growth of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. World War One brought people from all nations into trenches where the combination of unsanitary conditions, malnourishment, dehydration, and sleep deprivation provided a fertile ground for the influenza virus. Many World War One survivors immigrated to industrialized places and brought the disease with them. When the immigrants arrived, they lived in tenements with the lower-class, thus, adding to the poor circumstances where the virus could flourish. The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 was an incredible tragedy that touched so many innocent lives. Few people are still alive today to share their recollections and stories of the early twentieth century. Undoubtedly, those still living may prefer not to remember that calamity.

More about Causes of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Open Document