Brief history & Images of Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919

Library of Congress Photos of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 click to view pictures…

1918 Red Cross during the Influenza Flu Pandemic. Photo Courtesy Library of Congress

Citizens wore flu masks in public. Citizens had to have on mask to ride street cars. Some made homemade masks. There were three waves of the virus. The virus took the lives of 750,000 USA citizens.

1918 Flu Pandemic spread worldwide during 1918-1919.  In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. Barbers wore face coverings. People also wore homemade masks.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. In the US, the disease devastated cities, forcing law enforcement to ban public meetings, shut down schools, churches, and theaters, and even stop funerals.

Flu Pandemic pictures from the 1918-1919 pandemic.

Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)

When the 1918 influenza epidemic began its deadly tour across the United States, African Americans were already beset by a host of major public health, medical, and social problems that shaped how they experienced the epidemic and how the epidemic affected them. By 1918, medical and public health reports had documented that African Americans suffered higher morbidity and mortality rates than white people for several diseases. The Atlanta Board of Health, for example, reported in 1900 that the black death rate exceeded that of the white death rate by 69%.2 In an analysis of the 1900 census, W.E.B. Du Bois, the influential sociologist and civil rights activist, found that African American death rates were two to three times higher than for white people for several diseases including tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrheal disease. Although African Americans had lower rates for scarlet fever, cancer, and liver disease, Du Bois concluded, “The Negro death rate is, however, undoubtedly considerably higher than the white.”3 Full article Public Health Rep. 2010; 125(Suppl 3): 114–122.

“There Wasn’t a Lot of Comforts in Those Days:” African Americans, Public Health, and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic

Vanessa Northington Gamble, MD, PhDa

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