In the Grip of La Grippe: Spring 1918, the First Wave

Was your family affected by the influenza pandemic that occurred a century ago? Chances are good that it was.  The pandemic occurred in three waves.  The first, from March through July 1918, was the mildest wave with a low number or deaths, but unusual in that it lasted through the early summer.  The second wave began in August 1918 peaking in October and November before dying out in early spring of 1919, while the final wave extended from April 1919 through June 1920.  While scientists believe the three waves were caused by the same virus, they have samples only from the second wave, which caused the greatest amount of death and social chaos.  In genealogical terms this means that our ancestors may have died from the specific virus scientists call H1N1 that caused the two year pandemic, but the death certificate, newspaper notice or family memory may not include the facts.

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Spanish Influenza Provides Lessons for Coronavirus

For more than twenty years I worked on national security policy with a decided emphasis on diseases and natural disasters. Even with my shift into genealogy in 2014, I can’t resist following the news of the novel Coronavirus.  I am constantly looking for the signposts of pandemic and following information from health officials I trust.  Named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, the Coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019 and so far, the virus has followed a somewhat traditional path of ebb and flow of transmission; it has not yet reached pandemic proportions, even with multiple outbreaks in countries across the globe. 

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The Unsung Heroes Behind the Masks

One hundred years ago today, on January 17th, 1919, students at the University of Missouri were required to wear masks.  Why? Because the scourge of influenza had returned.  It was thought the nightmare had ended.  The influenza epidemic had surged through the fall of 1918 and had dampened the joy over the end of the war on November 11, 1918 and had sickened as many as one third of the world’s population, killing between 50 and 100 million.  Here’s how it played out in Columbia…  

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