First worldwide pandemic
Spanish flu was a pandemic that started in Europe and killed 20 to 100 million people. It is still debated as to where it originated from, but most believe it came from China or Europe and spread globally. The virus had an extremely high mortality rate of about 2%. This deadly disease is thought to have been caused by H1N1 influenza A virus. Symptoms included fever, headache, sore throat, dry cough, and body aches. In severe cases, it could lead to pneumonia, sepsis, and death. There is no specific cure for the Spanish flu, but some treatments may be beneficial.
Spanish flu is a misleading name which was popularized by news papers around the world at the beginning of the pandemic. As Spain was a neutral country in World War I, news channels were not censored as in many other countries and were therefore able to report freely about the new deadly flu. This led other countries to believe that Spain was the epicenter of the pandemic.
Spanish flu was more deadly for young adults with stronger immune system because it triggered a cytokine storm. Cytokines are proteins that are released when the body is fighting an infection, and a cytokine storm is a potentially fatal reaction to a viral infection. The cytokines cause the body to release too many chemicals, which can overload the body and lead to death.
Preventative measures were taken to slow down the spread of the deadly virus: maritime quarantines were set up, social distancing measures were introduced, and face masks were encouraged to be worn. Basically the same methods that are used today to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
These measures led to the emergence of protesting groups. One such group was the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco. The group was created to protest the use of masks by the general public. They believed that the masks were not effective in preventing the spread of the virus, and that they were actually causing more harm than good.
Several factors may have contributed to the rapid spread and global impact of this deadly disease, which made it the first worldwide pandemic.
First, World War I had created ideal conditions for the pandemic to spread. Although the war had ended in 1918, the conditions that led to the pandemic still persisted. World War I had mobilized millions of young men into armies, where they lived in crowded and unsanitary barracks. Soldiers were transported to many different parts of the world by the most modern transportation systems available at the time: trains, ships and airplanes that were not available or not so widely used before. This helped the virus to spread quickly to different parts of the world.
Second, news censorship was common during World War I. Authorities tried to maintain morale and news about the new deadly virus wouldn't have helped, so news about the pandemic was censored as much as possible.
Third, the Spanish flu came on the heels of World War I and many people were exhausted from years of warfare, which made them more susceptible to a new disease outbreak. If they already felt ill, they were more likely to die from the Spanish flu.