How the flu wiped out 675,000 Americans after World War I
By Commissioner Libby H. O'Connell, Ph.D.
United States World War One Centennial Commission, via the New York Post newspaper web site
They survived the trenches of the Western front, machine-gun fire in No Man’s Land and horrifying chemical-gas attacks — only to come home and die of the flu.
One hundred years ago this winter, the troopships began returning to America, carrying tens of thousands of Doughboys home from the Great War. With terrible irony, it would be microbes that would soon bury many of these American heroes.
Public-health authorities were powerless in the face of an unrelenting foe that would kill 50 million worldwide and infect half a billion more before the flu burned itself out.
While the nation paused last year to offer a centennial remembrance of the sacrifices demanded by World War I, there remains little appreciation for the influenza pandemic that followed it, adding viral carnage to the human brutality of the conflict.
Today, we understand much better how the flu worked, why it took so many young, healthy people and how to prevent its spread. But all this was a mystery to frantic physicians at the time, who were overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
Read the entire article on the New York Post web site.
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