The Spanish Flu in Chicago in 1918

Last week, Chicago Tribune published an excellent article about the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-1919. It contains multiple images for Tribune articles from that time. Here is a link to the article, but since I do not really trust Tribune articles to be on place indefinitely, I saved here a substantial portion of the pictures.

I am not going to comment on them – otherwise it would be easier to copy the whole article. I think that the pictures speak for themselves. What is terrifying, however is the striking similarity between the current situation and what was going on at that time. And what is even more striking and more terrifying is how fast these grim pages of history were forgotten.

I have to admit that one of the reasons I underestimated the magnitude of disaster in the beginning was my unawareness of how the Spanish flue looked like. I was thinking: OK, there was a biggest pandemic ever, and it is barely mentioned in the history of the 20th century. The world survived. Now, that I am reading these archived articles, and I am looking at that pictures of which at least 80 percent I never saw I realize the depth of the tragedy.

Just take a look at the one-hundred years old headlines: masks, hand-washing, Lysol(!!!), schools, movies theaters and public dancing are closed. The lift of quarantine, and almost immediately the next spike follows. There was no vaccine, and there was no reliable diagnostics. And no ventilators for that matter… 40,000 people got sickened in Chicago, and 10,000 of them died…

t. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the American Influenza epidemic in 1918.
Influenza victims crowd into an emergency hospital at Camp Funston,
a subdivision of Fort Riley in Kansas in 1918
Seattle policemen wear protective masks during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic.
A street sweeper in New York, like many residents at the time, wears a mask for protection against influenza in 1918. The New York Board of Health, which spread the word about wearing masks for protection, said it was better to be “ridiculous than dead.”
The flu epidemic of 1918 killed 548,452 Americans. The death toll across the world was 21 million. In 1918, all sorts of measures were taken to try and prevent the spread of the virus, from laws outlawing sneezing to the wearing of face masks in public. In this 1918 photo, Red Cross headquarters in Chicago is a busy place with workers wearing face masks as they prepare bandages.
Precautions taken in Seattle, Wash., during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic would not permit anyone to ride on the street cars without wearing a mask

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