And the real estate sector is no exception. In fact, this industry is facing multi-faceted effects based on the region and size and type of the property portfolio.

Will the COVID-19 coronavirus be as bad as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that infected 500,000,000 people?

Spanish flu: symptoms and deaths of the biggest pandemic in history,

It appeared suddenly in the final stages of the First World War and over the next two years claimed tens of millions of victims worldwide, disappearing in the same way it did.

HEALTH 12 JUNE 2017 19:05 by Andrea Centini

When we talk about a pandemic, or rather an epidemic capable of affecting several parts of the world with a high number of cases and high mortality, the first thought often falls on the notorious Black Plague, which killed as many as 20 million people in Europe in 1300; however, the one that has claimed the greatest number of victims is the cryptic Spanish flu or great flu, a disease that between 1918 and 1920 exterminated between 25 and 50 million people, after having infected about one billion. Recent estimates even speak of 100 million deaths. The halo of mystery surrounding the appearance, spread and disappearance of the “Spanish” is intimately connected to the period in which it emerged, the final phase of the First World War. For reasons of censorship, in fact, the pandemic was kept hidden by the various regimes from most of the world, at least in the first year since its inception.

Spanish flu has been, as its name suggests, a type of influenza – carried by H1N1 strain viruses – extremely virulent and the biggest pandemic in human history. The name “Spanish” derives from the fact that when it first began to spread, it was mainly mentioned in the newspapers of the Iberian country, because Spain was not involved in the First World War and therefore freedom of the press was not subject to the limits of war censorship. On the other hand, announcing that a mysterious epidemic was cutting the population and soldiers could not have a positive impact on the morale of the troops, already worn out by years of hard trench warfare.

in photo: The Spanish flu strain reconstructed in the laboratory: credit wikipedia

How it spread

Understanding when, where and how exactly the great influence emerged is quite complex, precisely because of the historical context in which it struck, however, the documents indicate that the first recorded cases, in the winter and spring months of 1918, were not lethal, and the pathology presented itself as a form of flu that lasted a few days without consequences of any kind. It was called “three-day flu” and referred to simply as a strange disease. It is believed that the first outbreak was a fort in Kansas or another in Texas, where 1,100 soldiers were affected, but other research indicates a country in France and also Asia. For the reasons already listed, Spain was also considered the scene of the first outbreaks. In the summer of 1918 the influence exploded in all its virulence, accompanied by very serious lung complications that were responsible for most of the deaths. It is believed that it was introduced in Europe by American soldiers who landed in France in April 1917 to take part in the conflict. The Spanish flu struck at every latitude, involving even the Arctic and the remote islands of the Pacific. It disappeared suddenly two years after its onset, probably due to a mutation of the virus into a less lethal form, although some believe it had the most effective treatment for pneumonia.

The lethality of the virus

Although particularly aggressive, influenza was not directly responsible for the mortality rate: deaths were in fact caused by bacterial infections that attacked affected patients, often in extremely poor hygienic and sanitary conditions. Just think of the soldiers who had been barricaded in the trenches for years, a veritable jumble of viruses and bacteria that could thrive among corpses, animal carcasses and open sewers. To avoid such a massacre, antibiotics would have been enough to counteract the complications of bacterial origin, but penicillin was discovered only ten years after the end of the conflict by Alexander Fleming.

The situation in Italy

Our country was one of those most affected by the Spanish flu; the mortality rate was second only to that of Russia, where extreme weather conditions further aggravated the situation. It is estimated that in Italy the disease affected over 4 and a half million people, killing between 375 thousand and 650 thousand. An impressive number, if we consider that at the time the Italian population was composed of 36 million citizens. The flu struck mainly in the South, but the mortality rate varied greatly from area to area, with peaks of 70% in some cities. Already tried by the war, Italy was brought to its knees also because among the dead there were many doctors and nurses, but also transport workers, i.e. drivers, tram drivers and railway workers, more exposed because they were in contact with a large number of people.

A massacre of young people

Although it may be thought that the greatest number of victims were concentrated in the most vulnerable age groups, i.e. children and the elderly, in reality the most affected were young people between 18 and 30 years of age. There are two opposing theories in this regard. As is well known, virus strains are distinguished by the characteristics of two proteins, hemagglutininin (H) and neuroamidase (N), hence the names H1N1, H3N2, H5N1 and so on, which have become infamous in association with the risks of avian influenza.

Due to the appearance of viruses similar to the Spanish virus (i.e. the H1N1 form) at the beginning of 1900 and before 1890, those born in the “uncovered” time interval were the least protected by the Spanish, since unlike the others they had not developed immune defences. Others suggest that the cause may have been a so-called “cytokine storm”, triggered by a disproportionate reaction of the immune system, more efficient in young adults.

Spanish:

The flu that has made more deaths than war

Coming from the United States, the “Spanish” was a flu pandemic that devastated the world within two years (1918-20), taking away an entire generation.

To date, the precise number of its victims remains difficult to quantify: historians estimate a value between 50 and 100 million, equal to 2.5 – 5% of the population.

To understand the enormity of the tragedy, just think that the First World War (1914-18) killed “only” 16 million people.

A real carnage, therefore, that the historian:

Laura Spinney,

author of the recent volume 1918. The Spanish flu. The epidemic that changed the world, does not hesitate to define it as:

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

It appeared all over the world, sparing no one in remote places like the islands of the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.

Today we will discover many things about this terrible flu pandemic, such as why it is called “the Spanish”, its origin, who was the first infected and many other curiosities. Let’s read them together.

1. The first infected was an American traveling with soldiers

Curiously, what went down in history as the Spanish flu did not begin in the Iberian Peninsula, but in the United States.

Patient Zero was in fact a military cook,

*Albert Gitchell, stationed at Camp Funston, Kansas.

On the morning of March 4, 1918, he arrived at the infirmary complaining of “sore throat, fever, and headache,” followed within hours by several comrades suffering from the same symptoms.

This was the so-called first wave of the flu, the least lethal: its rapid spread was due to the mode of transmission and contagion, i.e. through coughing or sneezing.

It should be kept in mind that, according to various studies, a single sneeze can release about 4,600 drops into the air, up to 4 meters away from the point of origin.

These droplets can remain suspended for more than half an hour and each one, if coming from an infected subject, can give rise to about 19,000 new colonies of viruses.

Travelling with soldiers

The virus expanded rapidly also thanks to military mobilization and in particular with the entry into war of the United States, where influenza was endemic.

Together with the stars and stripes soldiers it crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the Old Continent, invading the trenches and nations of the Western Front.

Here the second wave of influenza spread, probably due to a mutation of the virus, was more dangerous from the beginning.

France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain were the first countries to be overwhelmed.

2. Hunting the anointers

It was in Spain that the fearsome virus took the name by which it would go down in history.

While the king, the prime minister and almost all members of the government were infected along with a growing number of citizens, the country’s newspapers, uncensored because Spain was neutral in the conflict, began to describe the spread of the disease.

As Laura Spinney explains, the Iberian media ignored the fact that “in the belligerent countries news about influenza was censored so as not to demoralize the population” (in Germany, for example, doctors were obliged to call it

“pseudo-influence” to minimize it).

The news was also picked up by the press in the other countries affected, which began to call the deadly Spanish flu disease, as if it were a health problem confined to Spain.

Not only that: in an attempt to explain what seemed impossible to understand, many sought a scapegoat: in Brazil the epidemic was called “German”, in Senegal it was called “Brazilian flu”, in Denmark it was called “southern flu”.

Only later, when it was understood that the problem was global, was finally adopted the name given to it by the countries that had won the conflict, that is, “Spanish”.

3. Spread everywhere

While the newspapers competed to call the enemy peoples: anointed,

the lethal flu was marching fast.

“*Albert Martin Gitchell

Birth 17 Feb 1890 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA

Death 17 Mar 1968 (aged 78) USA

Burial State Veterans Home Cemetery Hot Springs, Fall River County, South Dakota, USA

Memorial ID 21935798 – View Source“

ALBERT GITCHELL GETS SICK

If, in the spring of 1918, three-quarters of the French troops and half of the English troops were infected, it only took a few weeks for the Spaniard to make her tragic entry into Germany, where she decimated 900,000 men in a very short time.

Then she arrived in Russia, where she killed, among many others, Jakov Sverdlov, leader of the Bolshevik party, a close collaborator of Lenin’s, and crossed the borders of Asia, first scourging China and India (about 18 million dead) and then spreading to Japan, where the first cases were recorded in mid-June.

It was followed by Australia and, before the end of the year, South America and Africa, which recorded the highest number of deaths in Kenya and South Africa. Not even the most remote corners of the planet were spared: in Bristol Bay, Alaska, 40% of the population perished in a very short time.

After the annus horribilis 1918, the virulence of the Spanish woman slowly began to decline: the number of new infections and deaths progressively decreased until the last death, in March 1920.

There are two main theories that explain the reasons for this slow disappearance: according to the first, the virus would have undergone a mutation reducing its aggressiveness; according to the other hypothesis, instead, both the prevention and the treatment of complications, actual causes of death, would have been improved.

Over the years, science has tried to understand the origin of the Spanish virus.

The symptoms were those of a normal flu – cough, lumbar pains, fever – followed however by very serious lung complications that inevitably led the sick to death within a few days.

4. In Italy more than 4 million sick people and why the “Spanish” was more lethal than many other influences?

In Italy more than 4 million patients

In Italy: more than 4 million sick people

In Italy the Spanish woman infected about 4.5 million people, or 12% of the population, with one of the highest mortality rates ever, second only to the Russian one.

It hit hard especially in the southern regions, where almost 70% of those infected did not survive.

At a certain point, the government, worried that the difficult situation would undermine the already low morale of the nation, forbade the tolling of bells, as well as death announcements, parades and funerals.

In the meantime, at the front and in the Italian trenches, the virus was claiming more and more victims undisturbed, with 3,000 new cases a day.

In the 1st Army, in the last quarter of 1918, there were 32,482 cases of contagion with 2,703 deaths.

To those of the soldiers were added the many deaths recorded among the health personnel and transport workers, who came into contact with the sick.

Milan Pre-safeguards

Why was “Spanish” more lethal than many other influences?

Many have wondered why the Spanish flu caused so many deaths.

According to some research carried out on medical reports at the time, the virus was aggressive, but no more than others, underlying previous influences that had done “less damage”.

According to science, a partial explanation lies in the fact that the youngest infected subjects, i.e. between 18 and 29 years of age, had never been exposed to a similar flu, even in childhood, and therefore had not developed adequate immune defences.

To this must be added other risk factors such as malnutrition and poor hygiene, to which the population was exposed, which reached a negative peak in the years and in wartime contexts: in particular, in the trenches where the spread of influenza was practically unhindered.

5. Even the VIPs were infected

Poets, painters, politicians: even the VIPs were infected.

The long list of lives cut by the Spanish also includes some of the most illustrious names in the culture of the time.

– Such as, for example, the poet and writer Guillaume Apollinaire, who was found dead by his friend Giuseppe Ungaretti on 9 November 1918 in his Parisian penthouse. He was 38 years old.

Guillaume Apollinaire

– Only twenty-eight years old was the painter Egon Schiele, a prominent name in early Viennese Expressionism, who died on October 31, 1918, followed three days later by his wife Edith, six months pregnant.

Egon Schiele

– Another illustrious victim was the writer Edmond Rostand, the brilliant creator of Cyrano de Bergerac, who died in Paris on December 2, 1918.

Edmond Rostand

– Two years later it was sociology that lost one of its top representatives, the German Max Weber: he was probably infected in Versailles, where he was among the delegates of Germany for the signing of the peace treaty. He spy in Munich on June 14, 1920.

Max Weber

Alvaro y Ballano, bishop of Zamora, a city in northeastern Spain, said that “the illness was due to our sins, to our ingratitude, because of which the avenging arm of eternal justice fell upon us”.

So, while the Iberian public authorities began to prohibit mass gatherings, sensing that crowded places could be lethal flywheels for the spread of influence, the bishop of Zamora became convinced that in reality those restrictions concealed an anticlerical will and that the only correct way to react was to organize a large and crowded Mass, demonstrating the strength of Catholicism.

Never was a decision more inappropriate: following that Mass, the rate of contagion in the city grew rapidly and the number of deaths increased disproportionately. The spread of the epidemic became unstoppable.

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How did the Camp Funston Patient Zero story get started?

HOW DID THE CAMP FUNSTON PATIENT ZERO STORY GET STARTED?

SPANISH INFLUENZA IN VICTORIA, CANADA, 1918-1920

The search continues for the origin of the Spanish Flu Patient Zero narrative. Every time I read the story — and it’s ubiquitous — there’s the same cluster of details with nary a citation of the source. Albert Gitchell, or in some accounts Mitchell, was a cook at Camp Funston (or Fort Riley), Kansas, who fell ill on March 11, 1918 (in some accounts March 4) and reported to the infirmary first thing, followed shortly by others named, and then a hundred, all with the same complaints of fever, lassitude and headaches.

Seeking the earliest mention of Patient Zero Albert Gitchell, I have in hand what I believe to be the first general history of the pandemic, The Great Epidemic: When the Spanish Influenza Struck by A. A. Hoehling (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1961).

It gives a detailed account of the March 11 outbreak at Camp Funston, though with not the clearest paper trail. The sources appear to include the admission book from the hospital, or some other list with comments, or actual medical charts (much less likely). Elizabeth Harding, RN, ANC (Ret.), at the time a 2nd Lieutenant and the head nurse at the Fort Riley hospital, is a possible source — but not, I think, “Surgeon Schreiner,” that is, Colonel Edward R. Schreiner, MD, AMC, officer in charge of Fort Riley hospital. More on them in a moment. Here’s the whole story as told on pp. 14-15 in The Great Epidemic:On Monday morning, March 11, before breakfast time, the duty sergeant at Hospital Building 91, once host to the sickened backwash of the Spanish-American War, had a caller. Albert Gitchell, a company cook, complained of a “bad cold.” He was feverish, suffered from a sore throat, headache and muscular pains. Gitchell was quickly banished to a contagious ward. Hardly had a corpsman put a thermometer in the soldier’s mouth when Corporal Lee W. Drake from the First Battalion, Headquarters Transportation Detachment, reported to the same admitting desk in Building 91. His symptoms, even to a 103° fever, were identical with Gitchell’s.

Two cases with a rubber stamp similarity could have been coincidence. However, when Sergeant Adolph Hurby came coughing in moments later, the duty corpsman called for the chief nurse. By the time Lieutenant Harding had arrived at Building 91 two other sick soldiers were awaiting admission. Miss Harding knew she was confronted with a potentially grave situation. She cranked the wall phone. ‘Colonel, she commenced with concern.

Surgeon Schreiner, a sober, meticulous officer, did not wait to shave, comb his mustache, or even snap the hooks and eyes of his uniform’s choker collar. He hurried out of his quarters and shook the nodding driver of his motorcycle and sidecar, which was always standing by. Soon he was examining his first patient, shortly, his second, his third, and so on. By breakfast time, the telltale medical manifestations were as obvious to [15] Colonel Schreiner as the inscriptions in a family Bible. With the aid of his assistants, he was noting on chart after chart, except for minor variations:

Fever 104°. Low pulse, drowsiness and photophobia. Conjunctivae reddened and mucous membranes of nose, throat and bronchi, evidence of inflammation.

There was little doubt in Dr. Schreiner’s mind that the Army post had been hit with influenza. By noon, 107 patients had been admitted to the hospital.

Surgeon Schreiner figures nowhere in the Acknowledgements or Bibliography sections of the book. Yet how boldly he is drawn! including the workings of his mind! Is that what is called creative non-fiction? But there is nothing there that could not be realized with the aid of Col. Schreiner’s picture and someone’s description of his behaviour; likely also his correspondence on the state of the camp. Nurse Harding does show up in the “indebted to the following people” section at the back of The Great Epidemic. Even though there’s no mention of hospital admission documents, I conclude that the writer engaged his flair for drama to work up some hospital admissions document. Thus far I haven’t been able to get anywhere near such a document. Or to Dr. Schreiner.

A history of Fort Riley hospital published in the 1950s(1) relates that Elizabeth Harding attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In a letter extensively quoted,(2) Harding related that she arrived at Fort Riley in a snowstorm in October 1917 and suffered the utmost privation that winter, along with thousands of doughboys. She was there when the spring wave of epidemic influenza struck but, tellingly, doesn’t mention it — meningitis was of the greatest concern. Which suggests to me that she was not the source of the Gitchell story that The Great Epidemic recounted three years later.

(1) “An Army Hospital: From Horses to Helicopters: Fort Riley, 1904-1957” by George E. Omer Jr., in Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 1958, pp. 57-78. Accessed via the Kansas Historical Society website. ❡ (2) “Letter to Major Judd, chief nurse, U. S. A. H., Fort Riley, from Elizabeth Harding, 30 Park Ave., Apt. 3-D, New York 16, N. Y.”

Incidentally, Lieut. Harding was there as the deadly “second wave” of influenza rolled over Kansas later in 1918:

I left Fort Riley in October of 1918, for duty in the Office of the Surgeon General. The flu epidemic had just struck, and the day I left there were over 5,000 patients. Barracks were opened at Camp Funston to accommodate the sick. Several nurses died, I am not certain, but it seems to me at least sixteen. The nurses who had been on duty at Fort Riley stood up very well, but nurses who were rushed in for the emergency were hard hit, and arrived sick.*

Sixteen nurses down in one camp. The brutality of the epidemic is inconceivable.

Strange to relate, in Albert Gitchell’s personal and family history in online records, there is not the merest mention of the Patient Zero narrative.* Nor, to be candid, could I find anything that directly links the person I found online to Camp Funston. I do find an Albert Martin Gitchell working in food-and-drink-related occupations before and after the war, and I believe that man to be the Albert Gitchell, a cook at Camp Funston who famously got sick on March 11, 1918.

* Documents accessed via Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records; news articles with the Newspapers.com – Historical Newspapers from 1700s-2000s search engine.

The draft registration card for Albert Martin Gitchell reveals he was born in Chicago in 1890 and was in 1917 a self-employed butcher living in Ree Heights, South Dakota. His father, Albert W., was a plumber (1910 census), and his grandfather William, a carpenter; Albert’s mother Ellen was from Norway. On his military gravestone are carved Albert’s rank, Sergeant; his unit, 9 Co[mpany] 3 B[attalion], 164 Depot Brigade; and his service in World War I. A 1919 record memorialized Albert’s marriage to Emma Van Gorp, a widow; both residents of Ree Heights. The 1920 census for Ree Heights Township identifies him as a restaurant proprietor and Emma as the daughter of immigrants (elsewhere named Puffer) from Bohemia (now Czech Republic). The Gitchells apparently lived in a Bohemian enclave. For a time they lived in Binghampton, New York. In 1930 Albert was a commercial traveler for a gas and electric company there, and Emma worked at film casting in a factory. A 1935 issue of the Huron, SD Daily Plainsman reported that A. Gitchell of Ree Heights was issued a high point beer license. In 1945 the Gitchells moved to Sturgis, SD, where they operated a neighbourhood store until 1951. The Gitchells evidently did not have children.

A spread in the Rapid City [SD] Journal of November 30, 1958 featured the South Dakota State Soldiers’ Home, where Mr. and Mrs. Albert Gitchell were depicted in their suite.

Albert died in 1968. Emma lived at the State Home until her death in 1977.

After The Great Epidemic was published in 1961, a syndicated review of the book by William R. Lansberg appeared in small-town New York newspapers; it mentioned Patient Zero Albert Gitchell. After that the earliest newspaper account I could find was an article in the September 6, 1976 Dayton, Ohio Journal Herald, “20 million died in 1918-’19 outbreak. Swine flu resurrects fear of pandemic.” The writer of that, Hugh McCann, of the Detroit News, demonized Gitchell, claiming he “won immortality as the man whose sneeze went around the world, causing the worst plague in the history of man.” The next mention of Patient Zero Gitchell I could find was in March 1998, in a staff-written story in The Manhattan [Kansas] Mercury. Since then, the floodgates have definitely opened. Albert Gitchell has had way more than his fifteen minutes of fame. But immortality? C’mon. Anyway, doesn’t membership in the Patient Zero club have the same high bar as a Darwin Award, namely you have to be dead?

If one thing is clear in all this, it’s that the origin of the Spanish Flu virus and the identity of Patient Zero will always be mysterious.

PS: Albert Gitchell had no inkling, I am sure, that he was Patient Zero. Anyway, he was not Patient Zero. Because Patient Zero was a construction. And because Albert just wasn’t Patient Zero. The Opie medical commission the army sent to Camp Funston in July 1918 reported that the same disease had been endemic at the camp since it opened the previous September.*

* “Pneumonia at Camp Funston. Report to the Surgeon-General,” by Eugene L. Opie, Allen W. Freeman, Francis G. Blake, James C. Small and Thomas M. Rivers. [All M.D.] Journal of the American Medical Association 72(2), January 1919, pp. 108-116. Downloaded from JAMA Network.

In their report is a chart showing day-by-day admissions to the Fort Riley hospitals for influenza. Admissions for influenza were on the rise a week before Mr. Gitchell showed up.

ANDREA CIONCI

PUBLISHED ON 23 January 2018

LAST MODIFICATION 16 June 2019

9:06

The mystery of the Spanish flu in 1918: the pandemic killed 10 million people in two years…

The first cases in the Iberian peninsula and hence the name with which it was baptized. It soon spread to the United States and all over Europe, especially among soldiers aged 18 to 40.

*Egon Schiele

*A great innovator of modern figure painting, Egon Schiele is known for creating erotic and deeply psychological portraits, on many occasions using himself as the subject. Schiele often used color sparingly, his work identifiable instead by his characteristic sinuous black line. In his many self-portraits, Schiele is typically nude and staring directly towards the viewer, making the works both revealing and confrontational. Schiele’s female subjects are often nude as well, their bodies portrayed in various contorted positions. Whether representing himself or others, Schiele’s pictures are strikingly raw and direct. A student of the famous Symbolist artist Gustav Klimt, Schiele’s body of landscapes (though only a small collection) evoked Klimt’s folkloric tone and flattened compositional space. Schiele was prolific, but his artistic career ended tragically when he fell victim to the Spanish flu in 1918 at only 28 years of age.

A naked man, gnarled limbs, sitting on a bed. A woman squatting next to a child. Egon Schiele’s latest painting, “The Family” unintentionally depicts the most terrible pandemic in human history: the “Spanish” flu, which struck one in three people around the world one hundred years ago, killing between 10 and – according to some – 50 million people.

Schiele had just portrayed his wife Edith six months pregnant when, at the end of October 1918, she, infected with the virus, died without being able to give birth to the brown, curly baby the painter had imagined. The same artist followed his wife to her grave just three days later.

A book will tell the story of the epidemic…

It is no coincidence that the painting is on the cover of the book “1918: The Spanish Flu. The epidemic that changed the world” published by Marsilio. The work of the scientific journalist Laura Spinney and soon to be published, the volume reconstructs the history of the pandemic by following its tracks all over the world, from India to Brazil, from Persia to Spain, from South Africa to Ukraine, framing it from a scientific, historical, economic and cultural point of view.

Despite the scale of the tragedy, which far exceeded the deaths caused by the war (16 million victims), the consequences of the Spanish pandemic have long remained in the background compared to the memory of the devastation left by the conflict.

A health catastrophe

In February 1918 the Spanish press agency FABRA transmitted: “A strange form of epidemic disease has appeared in Madrid … The epidemic is of a benign nature as there are no fatal cases”. If the disease had started to be talked about in Spain, the European press, which was largely subject to war censorship, could only write about the development of the disease in the Iberian country. That is why the new epidemic disease was called “Spanish”.

Fort Riley in Texas

However, the most important outbreaks developed in the United States, at military bases. We are talking about Fort Riley, Texas, where 1,100 soldiers were hit. A couple of months before the end of the Great War, in September 1918, the pandemic was spread in Europe mainly by the US expeditionary corps. The soldiers who fell ill at the front were hospitalized in the rear, helping to spread the disease among civilians.

The scourge of young people

As a rule, the people most at risk from influenza are children and the elderly. Strangely, however, the 1918 virus killed mainly young people between 18 and 40 years of age. This, together with the fact that the outbreaks developed mainly in military environments, gave rise to some conspiracy theories. The virus appeared out of nowhere, the scourge of young and strong men, equally mysteriously disappeared after the end of the war, made some people ventilate that it might have been, originally, some kind of bacteriological weapon that got out of the Americans’ hands. More likely, from some studies it emerges that the individuals of the “middle” generations had not had contact with the passage of other strains of influenza that older people had already experienced, immunizing themselves against the contagion.

The symptoms of the deadly virus

The symptoms of the Spanish woman were coughing, lumbar pains, fever; later the lungs began to fill with blood and death could come in a few days. The RNA H1N1 virus was responsible: its characteristics were able to provoke an abnormal reaction of the immune system that no longer protected the body, but even participated in the anatomical damage. The virus was transmitted by coughing or sneezing. One of these could release about 4,600 droplets into the air up to 4 meters away. These droplets could remain suspended in the air for more than half an hour and each could give rise to about 19,000 new virus colonies. According to some Japanese researchers, there were, in particular, three genes that allowed the disease to attack the respiratory system causing pneumonia.

The treatments that were used: unfortunately ineffective

Medicine proved powerless: doctors died infected and those who survived saw patients, relatives and friends, die en masse. The first therapies used Fenazone to lower the temperature, vomica walnut tincture to stimulate the nervous system and extracts from the Digital plant to support the heart.

Many doctors were strongly opposed to the use of aspirin, a recent invention which, while lowering the fever, was accused of promoting pulmonary and cardiac complications. One doctor at the time noted: “They injected a swill composed of blood and mucus from the flu, filtered to remove larger cells and debris,” but this only aggravated the situation.

Then the imagination of doctors and pharmacists got wild: a French doctor advised the sick to drink a lot of red wine until the cap hanging from the door knob appeared doubled. The Venetian writer Tito Spagnol was caustic about the treatments in vogue: “Four quinine tablets and some straw to die on”.

The history of vaccines

According to the anti-vacinist propaganda, the Spanish would have been caused by mass military vaccinations. In this regard, we report a conference that will take place on Thursday, January 25 in Rome, in the presence of the Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin, at the Academy of Health Art in Rome. In the Alexandrian Hall of the oldest hospital in the world, the complex of S. Spirito in Sassia, professors Adelfio Cardinale, Giovanni Rezza and Alberto Villani will hold a prolusion on the theme “Vaccinations in history and current affairs.

Sick Italy

The name “influenza” goes back to two Italian historians, Domenico and Pietro Buoninsegni, who in 1580, observing the disease, were convinced that it was due to the evil influence of the stars and therefore called it “Stellar Influence”.

Italian field hospital

Our country, already severely tested by the Great War, was further harassed by the Spanish in three successive waves and the number of people killed was second only to that of Russia, where the very harsh climate aggravated the situation for the sick.

In Italy, the pandemic infected about 4 and a half million people, about 12% of the entire population, which, at the time, numbered about 36 million. The estimated deaths were between 375,000 and 650,000 and the disease mainly affected the south, although the mortality rate varied considerably from city to city, apparently without a rule. At the front, in mid-October, there were peaks of 3000 new cases per day. In the 1st Army, in the last quarter of 1918, there were 32,482 cases of contagion with 2703 deaths.

There were many deaths in the medical staff, but also in the transport staff (railwaymen, tram drivers and drivers) because they came into contact with a large number of sick people.

In the cities the situation was no less. Also in October, in Turin, the dead reached 400 a day but the Head of the Cabinet, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, had imposed a severe censorship. The tolling of funeral bells had been forbidden, as well as mortuary announcements, processions and funerals, so as not to demoralize the nation.

Historical consequences

The Spanish flu radically reconfigured the human population more than any other event following the Black Plague of 1347-’52. It helped to mark the destiny of the First World War, so much so that the Allied war propaganda had exploited the Spanish by spreading the following flyer in Germany: “Recite the Lord’s Prayer because within two months you will fall into our hands; then you will eat meat and ham and the Influenza will abandon you”.

Probably the terrible pandemic also laid the foundations for the outbreak of the Second World War. However, it also had the role of encouraging the practice of outdoor activities and sport and the merit of contributing to the spread of universal health care.

the only people who have proof of their sanity are those who have been discharged from mental institutions

Marshall McLuhan

Published August 28, 2018. Most recent edition December 9.

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