Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Influenza in Des Moines

We're so used to the annual innoculation that the flu can seem ordinary. But there was a time when it was not only a killer - as it sometimes still is - but a raging epidemic that wiped out 675,000 Americans. (The photo at left is of "An Emergency Hospital for Influenza Patients." The Pandemic of 1918.

From Mike Leavitt Secretary of Health and Human Services, presented February 7, 2006: "On October 5th, 1918, the first cases of flu were reported in Des Moines, and on that same day, the Des Moines Tribune reported that local hospitals were refusing any more patients with the flu. After just 25 confirmed cases among civilians in Des Moines, the Surgeon General suggested the city close theaters and other public places to prevent a pandemic. It was already too late. Within one week, the Public Health Service reported that there were more than 8,100 new cases of the flu (civilian and military) and more than 70 deaths from it, and the number "appears to be increasing." The following week, more than 21,000 cases were reported." And that was just in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information -

The great influenza : the epic story of the deadliest plague in history / John M. Barry

Flu : the story of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and the search for the virus that caused it / Gina Kolata.


Graphic: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

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