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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Call that an epidemic? This is an epidemic.

This is how in 1918 Times readers first found out about Spanish flu:

The Times 3 June 1918 p5

The Times 3 June 1918 p5


You can say that again. It ended up killing 40 million people.

Incidentally the Wikipedia page on the subject is an appalling mess. At one point it claims that it began on the Allied side of the front, at another that it began on the Central Powers’ side. At one point it claims that it was particularly lethal to those with strong immune systems and at another to those with weak immune systems.

Having said that I love the suggestion that it was called Spanish flu because that was the origin of the first reports of the disease. It was the origin of the reports not because it was the first place to get the disease but because wartime censors did not want to encourage the enemy by admitting its presence.

So, it’s possible that this was not how Times readers first found out about it.

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5 comments to Call that an epidemic? This is an epidemic.

  • Rob

    It killed 40m, but didn’t a paricularly stupid American ambassador recently call Ebola “the biggest public health crisis ever”?

    While the rest of the US government claims there’s nothing to worry about.

  • will

    If one of those who gets you won’t care about the 1918 epidemic.

  • Regional

    In Seppoland there’re about 9,000 perps a year who interfere with the trajectory of airborne lead resulting in them not being able to legally vote for the Democrats.
    If Mother Gaia hadn’t culled the population of Europe by 40 million beginning in 1918 and given that a population will double every 35 years with a growth rate of 2% so with some rough rounding off that’s about a 100 million people. The world’s population is now 7 billion, 100 million is nothing.
    What’s the problem and given the Western world through self indulgence doesn’t want to breed, WGAF?
    You want solutions from politicians, remember they’re effwits who can’t get job elsewhere so maladministration is the norm or as they say in Frogistan ‘une vie normale’

  • Mr Ed

    A paper cited in a paper in the Wikipedia article suggests a death toll of a slightly less terrible at least 20,000,000 for the Spanish ‘flu.

    Not only is the Wikipedia article a mess, but a paper cited in it from the New England Journal of Medicine is, at best, based on informed conjecture as to what the future holds, and contains the following words which may cause concern:

    Is there anything we can do to avoid this course? The answer is a qualified yes that depends on how everyone, from world leaders to local elected officials, decides to respond. We need bold and timely leadership at the highest levels of the governments in the developed world; these governments must recognize the economic, security, and health threats posed by the next influenza pandemic and invest accordingly. The resources needed must be considered in the light of the eventual costs of failing to invest in such an effort. The loss of human life even in a mild pandemic will be devastating, and the cost of a world economy in shambles for several years can only be imagined.

    If people in 1918 had invested in eliminating the virus of Socialism as an idea, and its 20th Century ‘pandemics’, many more lives might have been saved.

    The discussion these days is not really about diseases, but government responses to them. The headline of this article may evoke premature Schadenfreude in the more radical anti-Statists.

  • Richard Thomas

    WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward also said there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week within two months if efforts were not stepped up,

    Yeah, it hasn’t killed 40 million *yet* (and OK, probably won’t) but in that very article pictured:

    “it was, at first, together with its victims, the subject of much good-natured badinage and pleasant writing”…

    So, um, let’s not jump the gun on laughing at those showing concern. A few sensible precautions are not amiss.