8 Surprising Facts About the Spanish Flu

Were you aware that the Spanish Flu did not originate in Spain?

Influenza, a virus that specifically targets the respiratory system, is commonly known as the flu.

The virus typically infects the lungs, throat, or nasal passages.

The flu is usually transmitted by sneezing, coughing, or talking.

In addition, you could contract the virus by touching an object that was recently in contact with the virus and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes.

For instance, if someone sneezes on a handrail and you touch it before scratching your eye, you could potentially contract the virus.

Like many others around the world, I too have at some point in time convinced myself that I am dying from the flu.

Just like the majority of these people, I was simply being melodramatic and recovered soon after.

While most people these days will recover from the flu without any serious trauma or risk of death, this is not always the case.

Let’s examine one of these more lethal varieties, the Spanish Flu.

The Spanish Flu was the deadliest pandemic the world has ever seen!

Forget about the flu you caught when you were a kid that made you believe you and the human race were doomed.

The worst flu on record is the Spanish Flu, which ravaged the world from 1918-1919.

The official worldwide death toll of the Spanish Flu was between 20 and 50 million people, although this is likely an underestimate.

Experts believe the actual figure was around 100 million, with the excess deaths occurring in areas that did not keep medical records of the cases.

If we accept the inflated numbers, then more than 3% of the world’s population died from the Spanish Flu!

The Spanish Flu did not originate in Spain.

The Spanish Flu struck in the early months of 1918, during the final year of World War I.

In 1918, the majority of the world’s nations censored the media to prevent any negative news from affecting the morale of their troops.

Therefore, these countries opted to censor any information about the new strain of flu to keep their soldiers focused on the war.

Spain was neutral in the war, so its media was free to report on anything it pleased.

People believed that the flu originated in Spain because it was the only European power reporting on it.

The irony here is that the Spanish media referred to it as the French Flu!

The Spanish Flu had multiple waves of outbreaks.

The first wave of the flu spread throughout the world in the early months of 1918 and was relatively mild.

Most individuals who contracted the Spanish Flu reported typical flu symptoms and recovered within a short amount of time.

Few deaths were reported at this time. The second wave, which began in the fall of the northern hemisphere, was more severe.

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 was one of the deadliest outbreaks in history. The second wave was particularly lethal, possibly due to mutations in the virus, and it spread to more parts of the world due to increased troop movements during World War I. The third wave began in Australia and was just as deadly as the second wave, but it didn’t spread as far because the war had already ended.

During the second wave, the US saw more deaths from the flu than in battle. The largest contingent of soldiers, around 1 million men, headed to the front lines at the same time the wave hit. Around 26,000 men died during this single offensive, but nearly twice this amount died from the flu. Around 15,000 soldiers died while stationed in France, and another 30,000 died on US soil.

One of the biggest challenges during the Spanish Flu pandemic was that no one knew how to fight it. The leading medical experts of the world were clueless, and doctors turned to whatever they thought would help, including aspirin. Doctors in the US recommended that patients take as much as 30 grams of aspirin per day, but this proved fatal. Aspirin is still used today, but never in doses more than 4 grams a day.

Unlike common forms of influenza, the Spanish Flu affected people of all ages. Many young men and women who showed no signs of pre-existing conditions died from the virus. Social distancing measures were implemented in many cities throughout the US to prevent the spread of the virus, with varying degrees of success. Cities that implemented tight restrictions at the first onset of the virus had death rates 50 percent lower than others who took longer. Those who lifted restrictions too early caused the virus to return en masse, while those who kept their restrictions for longer saw the virus die out.

Spanish Flu’s Modern Strains are Common Flu Variations

coughs and sneezes spread diseases

Despite the immense destruction it caused, the Spanish Flu is not an incredibly rare form of the virus, but rather a variation of the common flu known as H1N1.

Scientists were able to study the virus’s genetics by analyzing samples from the frozen bodies of infected individuals in Alaska’s permafrost.

As the world population grows and globalization continues, the risk of pandemics increases, as demonstrated by the deadly strain of the common flu that killed 100 million people in just two years.

It is essential to remember the lessons learned from the Spanish Flu pandemic, as more pandemics are likely to occur in the future, even in the post-COVID-19 era.


1. What was the Spanish flu?

The Spanish flu was a highly contagious respiratory virus that spread across the world in 1918. It was caused by the H1N1 influenza virus and infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide, resulting in the deaths of 50 million people, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in history.

2. Why was it called the Spanish flu?

The flu was not actually originated in Spain, but it was given that name because Spain was one of the first countries to report the outbreak of the disease. Other countries, including Germany, France, and the United States, were reluctant to report on the disease because they didn’t want to cause panic. However, in Spain, there was no such censorship, and the disease was widely reported in the press.

3. Who was most affected by the Spanish flu?

The Spanish flu affected people of all ages, but it was most deadly for young adults between the ages of 20 and 40. This was unusual, as most flu outbreaks are most dangerous for the elderly or very young. The reason for this is still unknown, but some scientists believe it may have been due to the unique immune response of young adults.

4. How did the Spanish flu spread so quickly?

The Spanish flu spread quickly due to the mass movement of troops during World War I. Soldiers were often cramped together in unsanitary conditions, which made it easy for the virus to spread. Additionally, there were no effective vaccines or treatments for the virus at the time, which allowed it to spread more easily.

5. How did people try to protect themselves during the pandemic?

During the pandemic, people tried a variety of methods to protect themselves, including wearing masks, avoiding public gatherings, and using disinfectants. Some cities even closed schools, churches, and theaters to try to slow the spread of the virus.

6. Did any famous people die from the Spanish flu?

Yes, several famous people died from the Spanish flu, including American President Woodrow Wilson, writer Katherine Anne Porter, and artist Egon Schiele. Even some famous survivors, like Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart, were affected by the virus and suffered long-term health effects.

7. What was the economic impact of the pandemic?

The economic impact of the pandemic was significant. Many businesses closed, and the workforce was greatly reduced due to illness. Additionally, the cost of medical care and funerals put a strain on many families. Some countries, like the United States, experienced a temporary recession due to the pandemic.

8. How did the Spanish flu pandemic end?

The Spanish flu pandemic ended when the virus mutated into a less deadly form. Additionally, people developed immunity to the virus over time. By the summer of 1919, the pandemic had largely subsided, although there were still some outbreaks in isolated areas.

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