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Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 Flu, was caused by an Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 and was considered the worst pandemic in the 20th century. It lasted from February 1918, during World War 1, until April 1920. The ongoing war contributed to the fast spread of the influenza virus, causing the death of 20-100 million people.
See the fact file below for more information on the Spanish Flu or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Spanish Flu worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ORIGIN OF THE FLU
- Spanish Flu was caused by the H1N1 virus that originates, though there is no universal consensus, from avian genes.
- Despite being named Spanish Flu, it is not clear where the virus originated.
- Being a neutral country during World War 1, Spain was the only country that did not apply for media censorship. The Spanish media was the first to cover the outbreak in May 1918 and continue to do so until the pandemic stopped. It led many people to believe that the flu came from them.
- The Spanish call it the French Flu as they believe that the virus came from France.
TIMELINE OF THE FLU
- The Spanish Flu became a pandemic in a matter of months. It was first observed in America, Europe, and other areas of Asia.
- The first outbreak was recorded in the spring of 1918 in a military camp at Kansas, USA. The infection spread among troops who were bound to fight in World War 1.
- It spread in Europe once the troops arrived. It was detected in the third week of May in Spain.
- Researchers believed that the spread of infection intensified in Madrid during the San Isidro festivities. The first wave, which lasted for two months, was infectious but not as deadly as the upcoming second wave in Autumn 1918.
- Spain theorized that aside from the soldiers returning home, the Portuguese who returned home by train after the war ended induced the second wave.
- However, historians believed that a virus mutation that had occurred and spread by wartime troop movements caused the surge.
- The mortality rate was higher in the healthy 20-40 age group than the previous flu season, which usually affects the very young and the elderly.
- This new virus mutation was much more fatal as it could take lives after 24 hours of exhibiting the first symptoms.
- The second wave stopped in December 1918, but the third wave immediately followed in the succeeding month.
- The third wave had occurred towards the end of World War 1 in Winter 1919. The war officially ended in November 1918, so the soldiers overseas were permitted to return home.
- Some historians suggested that the third wave started in Australia after being spared in the first two waves. The flu surged again when the troops from Australia were returning to America and Europe.
- The third wave was as lethal as the second wave, but the end of the war helped stop the contagion.
- It subsided in the summer of 1919. Some authors insisted that the third wave continued until 1920 as few communities were still suffering from the disease a year after the war.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
- The Hemaglutinin of the H1N1 virus is a surface protein that allows the virus to enter and infect a healthy cell.
- In 2008, researchers discovered why Spanish Flu become so lethal. A group of three genes enables the virus to infect the bronchial tubes and lungs and clear the way for bacterial pneumonia.
- This virus attacks the respiratory system and is highly contagious. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks, the respiratory droplets are transmitted to the air and inhaled by anyone nearby.
- It can also infect someone if they touch something an infected person has touched.
- Recorded symptoms of this flu include tiredness and headache, followed by a dry hacking cough, loss of appetite, stomach problems, and excessive sweating.
- The illness affects the respiratory organs leading to pneumonia, the primary cause of death.
STOPPING THE FLU
- There were no vaccines or antivirals in 1918, making a cure hard to find. There were also limited resources and equipment to help doctors and scientists study the virus.
- Officials ordered quarantines in their respective communities. They required citizens to wear masks and avoid public gatherings.
- Some officials imposed fines for citizens caught in public without masks. They closed schools, theatres, and churches.
- People were discouraged from shaking hands or any physical contact in public. They also banned spitting and stopped lending books from libraries.
- Spain even stopped the postal service and telegram deliveries.
CHALLENGES IN STOPPING THE FLU
- Researchers were distracted by a particular discovery in the 1890 pandemic. They thought that the flu was caused by a similar strain of bacteria called H. influenzae.
- They exhausted all their resources to find the cure for this bacteria for nothing.
- Additionally, World War 1 left parts of the world with a shortage of doctors and health workers. As most of them were also called to serve in the war, many came down with the flu themselves.
- Private homes, schools, and other buildings were converted to makeshift hospitals as hospitals become overloaded with flu patients.
- Some Public Health officials, despite knowing that quarantine could stop the infection, refused to stop their war efforts and kept their citizens working for ammunition in the factories.
- The pandemic also brought confusion in prescribing aspirin. Many doctors advised flu patients to take large doses of aspirin to alleviate the symptoms, which we now know is dangerous.
- Censoring the media was one of the main contributors to the spread of the virus. Most European countries’ media were censored while the war was ongoing.
- People who were not aware of the contagiousness of the disease were not advised to take precautionary measures, resulting in increased infection in many countries.
- Some American states downplayed the severity of the situation and allowed public gatherings such as having a parade to welcome the soldiers.
IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC
- The flu ended in the summer of 1919 when people either died or developed immunity.
- There was a 12-year decrease in the average life expectancy of Americans during the pandemic. In England, life expectancy at birth declined from 54 to 41 years old.
- The lack of public health records in some places made it hard to know the real numbers of deaths.
- However, a widely cited study from Johnson and Mueller in 2002 declared that the number of deaths was between 50 million to 100 million.
- In 2018, Spreeuwenberg concluded that there were only 17.4 million deaths caused by Spanish flu worldwide.
- The world population at the time was 1.8 billion, and the Spanish flu infected one-third of the population or an estimated 500 million people.
- The flu also took a heavy human toll, with family members dying, leaving orphans and widows. Funeral parlors were overwhelmed as the bodies piled up every day.
- There were not enough farmworkers, garbage piled up and businesses shut down as workers were also stricken by the flu. The economy suffered as people lost their jobs and companies closed.
- It opened more windows for the research of vaccines and infectious diseases. Researchers dug out the corpses of Spanish flu patients to study the behavior of this kind of virus.
Spanish Flu Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Spanish Flu across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Spanish Flu worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 Flu, which was caused by an Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 and was considered the worst pandemic in the 20th century. It lasted from February 1918, during World War 1, until April 1920. The ongoing war contributed to the fast spread of the influenza virus, causing the death of 20-100 million people.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Spanish Flu Facts
- Deadly Viruses
- Numbers in the Pandemic
- Pandemic Waves
- Facts about the Flu
- The Spanish Flu Chronicles
- Laws During a Pandemic
- Fact or Bluff?
- Role of the Media
- The Worst Pandemic
- Stop The Virus
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Link will appear as Spanish Flu Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 3, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.