© 2024 Red River Radio
Voice of the Community
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The "Spanish Flu" Pandemic of 1918 - The Second Wave

Courtesy; Philadelphia Medical Historical Society

AMERICA REOPENING -  Many people are anticipating reopening the nation’s  economy after weeks of business closures and disruptions to normal operations  by Covid-19 Emergency Stay At Home orders  which were issued  to  stop the spread of the coronavirus.  While the rate of Covid-19 infections appears to be slowing for many states,  there are still some risks involved as restrictions get relaxed and more people go out in public.  Health experts  and  especially  historians  warn about America  re-opening too soon.  Dr. Gary Joiner  who  is chair of the department of history and social sciences at LSUS.  He says historic health events of the past provide a glimpse of what not to do.

"The big event comparing what we've got today to something in our history is the 1918 flu, wrongly called the Spanish Flu," Joiner said.

The 1918 Flu pandemic killed millions of people  worldwide,  but not all the deaths occurred at once.

Credit Courtesy: Dr. Gary Joiner
Courtesy: Dr. Gary Joiner
Dr. Gary Joiner, Chair for the Department of History and Social Sciences at LSU-Shreveport.

"It all started out in waves and the first wave in early 1918 abated," explained Joiner. "And then something happened that I think we need to be very careful of today."

The first wave of the 1918 pandemic occurred in the spring and was generally mild. Those who got sick, experienced  flu symptoms such as chills, fever and fatigue, and many recovered after several days. The number of reported deaths was relatively low thanks to self-isolation measures.  People thought the worst was over and  all across America, leaders of cities and towns were pressured  to  relax restrictions  and reopen the economy.  Newspapers  were  even considered  “unpatriotic” for reporting  the  flu  and  local officials pressured  media  to  downplay  the disease’s spread.

"And if you  listen to the mainstream media today you're gettting the same thing," Joiner said. "Open it up, America is open for business, we need to do this, get the economy back. Get the stock market rolling, get people back to work, into theaters, into places to eat, into lots of things.  Well it's the same issue, it's just a different time."

On September 28, 1918  the city of Philadelphia  held a Liberty Loan parade attended by tens of thousands of people who  were ready to get out in public and celebrate but the celebration came at  a terrible cost. 

Credit Courtesy: wikimedia-commons 2.0
Courtesy: wikimedia-commons 2.0
SEPTEMBER 28, 1918 - Thousands attended the Liberty Bonds parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as city officials were under pressure to raise money for the war effort.

"Within two weeks 20,000 people had this flu again, and then it spread worse," explained Joiner.

Over 15,000 citizens of Philadelphia would die during the Flu’s Second Wave.  The story would repeat in several other cities and towns across the country and when it was over two years later, some 675,000 Americans were dead, most between 20 and 40 years of age.    The takeaway from all this according to Dr. Joiner is that the 1918 Flu Pandemic is something everyone should know more about regarding the consequences of  acting too soon.    

"Look back to the 1918 Flu and see how it spread and how quickly  it spread and how dangerous it is,"Joiner said.  "That's how we're going to get through this is to understand what we have in the place not only  of science but of history,"

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.