The Bad Flu

by Richard Allen Stotts

 I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.
A children's rhyme for skip rope, circa 1918

A little history...all of it true.

When you call to mind the great plagues of history you will probably think of the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague that reigned supreme from 1347 until 1351. It must have surely have been the most deadly epidemic that mankind has ever endured.

Of course you would be wrong.

The great Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people in one year than did the Black Death in the entire four years of its longest outbreak. Between 20 and 40 million people around the entire planet succumbed to what was known as the "Spanish Flu."

The flu virus struck the hardest at those who would normally be able to survive best such an illness, people between the ages of twenty and forty. The virus could act very fast, people were sometimes literally struck down in the street and could be dead in as little as one day, their lungs filling with thick, viscous fluids that would finally suffocated them.

Of all of the deaths to American fighting men during World War One, about half were due to the flu. At home in America the death toll was estimated at 675,000.

Even so, the mortality rate among those contracting the virus was only about two and one-half percent. A 'normal' flu virus will kill about 0.1 percent or less of its victims.

Flu viruses tend to mutate quickly, changing from year to year. Suppose the next variation of the virus is not survivable by anyone? Give some brief thought to this the next time you feel like you might be coming down with "something."

Chapter One

The Worst of Times ...

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