‘Influenza 1918’ on PBS
Gail Dever, Genealogy à la carte
As part of its American Experience series, PBS will air the documentary, Influenza 1918, on January 2nd, likely to mark the 100th anniversary. A bit of Googling indicated this 60-minute program was first broadcast in 1998.
In September of 1918, soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. The cause of death was identified as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen. As the killer virus spread across the country, hospitals overfilled, death carts roamed the streets and helpless city officials dug mass graves. It was the worst epidemic in American history, killing over 600,000 — until it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun.
The Spanish influenza of 1918 has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. The first outbreaks of the Spanish influenza occurred in the spring of 1918. The infection travelled back and forth between Europe and North America on the ships carrying troops fighting in World War I. These troops then introduced the disease into Asia and Africa.
Caused by a viral infection that attacked young, healthy bodies, the influenza killed more people than the First World War. An estimated 20 to 50 million people died from the flu worldwide. In Canada, more than 50,000 people died, and all parts of the country were affected.
A 2001 issue of Legion Magazine noted, “In Toronto, 1,682 people died between Oct. 9 and Nov. 2, 1918. Montreal was hit so hard that it had to adapt a trolley car to carry bodies because the city’s hearses could not meet the demand. By October 1918, influenza was claiming 1,000 Canadian lives a day. During the same period, the country’s battlefield losses averaged about 100 deaths a day.”
From the OGS newsletter December 30, 2017