Monday, July 11, 2011

The Spanish Flu

From Weekly Newsletter of
The 1918 Influenza: No Ordinary Case of the Flu

By Mary Penner 07 July 2011

William Sanders probably wondered when the horror would end. The Carter County, Missouri resident watched his 14-year-old son, Leonard, die on October 8, 1918. Two days later, his 21-year-old son, Willie, died, followed by 7-year-old Timon, 15-year-old Simon, 3-year-old Dallas, and finally 17-year-old Maude. He lost six children in a span of nine days. Ten days later his 48-year-old wife Sarah died, leaving William a widower with three children under the age of 10.
William’s stunning tragedy wasn’t unique. Families across the United States, and around the world, grappled with a killer of unprecedented proportions - the Spanish Influenza. My grandfather, Henry Bergman, a healthy 37 year old man, fought his way back from near death when the flu struck him. He was one of the lucky ones.

It’s fairly certain that the disease didn’t originate in Spain. It was likely called the Spanish flu because Spain was one of the first countries in Western Europe that publicized significant numbers of flu-related deaths in the general population. Even today, nearly a century after the pandemic, virologists still remain fascinated by the origins of this catastrophic illness and its worldwide deadly march. Most agree that the conditions in France, the major battleground of World War I, contributed to an opportunistic perfect storm for this deadly strain of flu to strike throughout the world.

A first wave of the flu struck soldiers in Europe in the spring of 1918. Nearly 25,000 French troops reported ill with the flu in May. But, only a handful died, and the illness seemed to fade away during the summer. In late August and September, the flu re-emerged worldwide. This strain, though, proved to be lethal for millions of people. Accurate numbers aren’t known, but estimates suggest around 30 million deaths from the flu. Some assert the number was probably much higher, approaching 100 million.
In practical terms for genealogists, hardly any American family escaped the effects of the flu. More than 25 percent of the American population became ill over a span of a few months. Fortunately, many of them recovered, but it was no ordinary case of the flu. Recovery was often a long and arduous undertaking. Even if your family members avoided getting sick, they may have felt the impact of the pandemic on their daily lives. Public gatherings were strictly curtailed. Schools were closed. People on the streets wore masks. Some communities posted guards on the roads and wouldn’t allow strangers in, and some wouldn’t allow anyone to disembark from trains that rolled through town. While church services were discouraged, some congregations met outdoors thinking that would be safer than meeting inside.
For many Americans, like the Sanders family in Missouri, the entire makeup of their family changed. John Oxford, a British virologist, noted that when “one person dies … there are repercussions through the next generation.” Was your family affected by the 1918 flu?

It's hard to imagine such measures being taken in America.  Suprisingly, those treated herbally had a far greater chance of survival.  What herb?  There are two primary ones Sweet joe-pye weed and boneset.  Both are considered weeds that grow almost all over the USA.  It's not surprising then that a fear of a pandemic flu killing off millions still remains.  It is surprising that no one seems to have exploited the flu fighting properties of these two herbs.  Boneset got its nick name from its property of alleviating the bone breaking pain of flu.  Joe-pye from an old indian name Joe who is supposed to have shown the use of the weed for flu.  Don't know if Joe really existed, but it was an old American Indian cure.

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