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May 2, 2009 12:10 AM   Subscribe

Question... What has killed more people than have died in the First World War... No, not another War, But a Pandemic, The Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

It spread to nearly every Part of the World, and it is the worst Epidemic that the United States has ever known. Here are some of the stories of those who were lucky enough to Survive it, and here is an account of the Effect it had on London. (Posted before on Mefi, Here, and Here.)
posted by hadjiboy (97 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
SWINE FLU. BE AFRAID.
posted by ageispolis at 12:14 AM on May 2, 2009


BACON FEVER. Not so bad!
posted by mazola at 12:17 AM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


When pigs fly, swine flu!
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:27 AM on May 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


HAMTHRAX: IT'S IN THE MAIL.
posted by crataegus at 12:28 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


WELCOME TO THE APORKALYPSE!
posted by loquacious at 12:30 AM on May 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


The swine flu call is coming from INSIDE THE BUILDING!
posted by codswallop at 12:30 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


PORK LOBBY OFFENDED BY "SWINE FLU" LABEL.

Won't someone think of the lobbyists!?
posted by delmoi at 12:32 AM on May 2, 2009


THIS IS WHY I SWITCHED TO TURKEY BACON
posted by little e at 12:34 AM on May 2, 2009


EVERYBODY PANDEMIC!
posted by iamabot at 12:36 AM on May 2, 2009


CAPSLOCK EPIDEMIC!!
posted by aubilenon at 12:40 AM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Swine flu? Bah. The swan flu is really deadly.
posted by orange swan at 12:41 AM on May 2, 2009


THE PANDEMIC TO END ALL PANDEMICS.

//caps? ah well, when in Rome
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:45 AM on May 2, 2009


SWINEFLU DID 911!

GOOGLE RON SWINEFLU!
posted by milquetoast at 12:48 AM on May 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


...it is the worst Epidemic that the United States has ever known. Here are some of the stories of those who were lucky enough to Survive it, and here is an account of the Effect it had on London.

What's the John Dory here? I know more about the bubonic plague than I do the Spanish flu epidemic. It's almost forgotten - from where I stand at least. The only time I hear about it is in glib, once-sentence factoids: "Do you know it killed more peeps than WWI?"

I can't get my head around that. Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family tragically losing siblings et al?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:52 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Parmageddon.
posted by athenian at 1:03 AM on May 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'll make a half assed attempt to answer my own question and say one would tend to remember someone like Rhodes Scholar Alaric Pinder-Boor having his guts spilled in Palestine during the prime of his life vs. poor old 62 year old Aunty Flo who developed a nasty cough and never recovered.

That, and I live in Oz and maybe we escaped the worst of it, hence it's not mentioned much?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:04 AM on May 2, 2009


Dammit, I thought we had agreed on "Bacon Lung"....
posted by barc0001 at 1:04 AM on May 2, 2009


BACON LUNG. Aporkalypse.
posted by floam at 1:08 AM on May 2, 2009


Parmageddon.

no, it was the Spanish flu.

JAMONOCAUST.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:08 AM on May 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


wait. it's illegal to make gallows humour unless you're the one on the gallows.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:09 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're all potentially on the gallows with this one. THE GALLOWS OF PORK.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:17 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where is the gallows on a pig?
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:18 AM on May 2, 2009


My Grandmother Agnes told me about the Influenza outbreak that took place leading up to World War One. It was horrible, many thousands of people got sick and died fast. Everybody was afraid to leave their houses. They ran out of coffins. People did not want to talk about the epidemic later. There was a kind of forgetting.
posted by longsleeves at 1:19 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family tragically losing siblings et al?

My Armenian great-grandfather got his family out of Turkey before things got too ugly, only to die of the flu in California. Does that count?
posted by The Tensor at 1:20 AM on May 2, 2009


my rels were in exile in siberia after the revolution of 1905.

escaping the soviet firing squad was more of an issue than some pimply little flu.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:21 AM on May 2, 2009


PUTTING THE "FUN" IN INFLUENZA SINCE 1918!
posted by loquacious at 1:33 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Guess how many people die as a result of cars each and every year?
posted by srboisvert at 1:37 AM on May 2, 2009


HAMDEMIC SNOUTBREAK!
posted by mattdidthat at 1:40 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


srboisvert: Worldwide? I dunno. Something like 750K / year?

Nothing to sneeze at, but not all that much compared to 50-100 million killed by this 1918 flu thing.
posted by aubilenon at 1:55 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the John Dory here?

Killed 12 000 in Oz, vs 60 000 dead WW1 soldiers. This may be your answer.
posted by Wolof at 2:05 AM on May 2, 2009


PORK CHOP SANDWICHES!
posted by cavalier at 2:58 AM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


LIVERWURST CASE SCENARIO
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:19 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


From your link:
The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. ... More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.
There seems to be some question about that:
The total number of deaths worldwide [from Black Death] is estimated at 75 million people,
Here's what the CDC has to say about the 1918 Influenza pandemic.


posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:42 AM on May 2, 2009


I can't get my head around that. Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family tragically losing siblings et al?

My grandmother lost siblings in the epidemic. She grew up in lower Manhattan and from what she said, it hit the immigrant communities pretty hard there.
posted by octothorpe at 4:15 AM on May 2, 2009


I cough in your general direction.
posted by qvantamon at 4:41 AM on May 2, 2009


can we stop making stupid swine flu jokes? i'd had it in my head to post something similar to this, but i'm too lazy to do so.

the pandemic in 1918 was a totally valid thing. the great influenza is an interesting book about it, and it shows how pathetic american medicine was compared to the rest of the world at the time, and how said pandemic was a major reason for the US getting its act together and going on to be a pretty great source of medical science (i will let you debate if it still is...). the book also tells stories of those who died or survived the flu. frankly, it's a very interesting read if only to see how infectious disease spreads.

so the pandemic of 1918 could be used as an example for what could be to come with the swine flu (though maybe not because medical science is better than it was back then, but we do have a greater population now, but fewer people are living in squalor in the us, butbutbut).

anyway, while this FPP was obviously done in response to the current ZOMGism, it's not fearmongering or misinformation like many other posts could have been (or have been).

so stop it with the SWINE FLU BACON FLU two word posts, because they're not adding anything.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:00 AM on May 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Thanks misanthropic, for saying something that I didn't have the guts to.

I did write this post as a response to the recent SwineFlu outbreak that we are having right now, but I never expected people to be so Cavalier about it. I guess you have to go through something like this only to be concerned enough to stop the other kinds of Posts.

I'm sure the Book you mentioned must be a good read, if it's like anything like what the survivors from the Pandemic had to say.
posted by hadjiboy at 5:13 AM on May 2, 2009


What failed to kill millions of people?
THE SPANISH FLUKE
posted by jouke at 5:27 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The major similarities between the 1918 flu and this one are interesting to ponder...
In 1918 it was spread by traveling groups of infected people (primarily US Soldiers). Then they traveled by train or boat.
In 2009 it is primarily spread by groups traveling to infected areas (primarily tourists and school groups). Now traveling by plane.
in 1918 There was very little knowledge about vaccines, and certainly no vaccine against any kind of influenza virus.
in 2009 there is as yet no vaccine for this strain.
In 1918 young people were the vast majority of the victims. Same goes for 2009
In 1918 people were advised to wear masks which did nothing to filter viruses. Same goes for 2009
In 1918 most people died of post flu opportunistic infections that could easily be handled by modern day antibiotics.
In 1918 'PANIC' was spread in Newspapers. In 2009 'OMG PANIC' is being spread by television news desperate for May sweeps ratings.
posted by Gungho at 5:59 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Guess how many people die as a result of cars each and every year?

Are cars contagious?
posted by ardgedee at 6:18 AM on May 2, 2009


Soylent Green is People! It's PEEOPLLLEEE
posted by killdevil at 6:20 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


it wasn't military might that won the first world war, it was military weakness that lost it. the "weakness" was the spanish flu.
posted by kitchenrat at 6:25 AM on May 2, 2009


it wasn't military might that won the first world war, it was military weakness that lost it. the "weakness" was the spanish flu.

That's possibly the most ridiculous statement about history I've ever seen. Congratulations!
posted by languagehat at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


so stop it with the SWINE FLU BACON FLU two word posts, because they're not adding anything.

Speaking only for myself, my smart-ass remark doesn't mean I'm making light of this flu or trivializing the 1918 flu. It's a reflection of the fact that, as we speak, there are like five open FPPs about this pandemic from the past five days, and they all include some discussion of the 1918 pandemic, so these links could just have been added to any one of those rather than presented as a whole new OMGPIGGYPLAGUE post.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:50 AM on May 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Maybe a "smart-ass remark" is not the best way to convey that, since it didn't contain any portion of that message.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:09 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Acceptance vs. panic. Letters survive from my father's college years (1918-1922). In one, his father matter-of-factly reports that their Philadelphia-suburbs living room had been turned, by the people in the neighborhood, into a hospital ward. Everyone seems to have survived (including the three younger siblings in the house). In the 1950's I knew an electrical engineer, born around 1925, who said his relatives told him it had been the plague: calling it "flu" was a government coverup. Incidentally, Camus' "The Plague" is a great book.
posted by RichardS at 7:14 AM on May 2, 2009


What's the John Dory here? I know more about the bubonic plague than I do the Spanish flu epidemic. It's almost forgotten - from where I stand at least. The only time I hear about it is in glib, once-sentence factoids: "Do you know it killed more peeps than WWI?"

I can't get my head around that. Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family tragically losing siblings et al?
That's actually an ongoing question that Gina Kolata (science writer for the NY Times) asks in her 1999 book Flu - she quotes Alfred Crosby, a historian of the 1918 Pandemic as calling it "America's forgotten pandemic".

Crosby again:
"The important and almost incomprehensible fact about the Spanish flu is that it killed millions upon millions of people in a year or less. Nothing else - no infection, war, no famine - has ever killed so many in as short a period. And yet it has never inspired awe, not in 1918 and not since, not among the citizens of any particular land and not among the citizens of the United States."
And all this despite the fact that the estimate range hugely, from 20 to 100 million, in part because they just couldn't keep track of the dead.

Crosby advances a couple of theories: (1) the flu blended into the general horror of WWI, (2) it didn't kill any major world leaders, (3) it didn't usher in a new era of fearfulness about recurrent epidemics (like the plague) because a year later it was spent, evolved into something else.

He also posits a sort of collective blindness - germ theory had conquered cholera, typhus, etc, but failed utterly at the flu. Sort of a see no evil/hear no evil/speak no evil.

It's a really good book, I'm rereading it in light of the recent events.
posted by clerestory at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family tragically losing siblings et al?

My granddad's father, brother, and sister were killed from the 1918 flu. I learned about it this week. It just never came up previously.
posted by collocation at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2009


CSI: Swine Flu.
posted by billysumday at 7:28 AM on May 2, 2009


Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family tragically losing siblings et al?

My great-grandfather and all his brothers were killed by it.
posted by hermitosis at 7:52 AM on May 2, 2009


Enjoy a song about the 1918 pandemic.

My grandmother didn't die in the 1918 pandemic, but the flu got her in 1923. Seasonal influenza is also deadly, a fact that's currently forgotten in the rush to panic over the swine flu.
posted by immlass at 7:55 AM on May 2, 2009


Friends and I contracted wine flu last night.
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on May 2, 2009


My grandmother's mother and baby sister died from the 1918 flu. I heard stories about it growing up but always as these particular people in our family died of the flu, not that there was a big epidemic.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:01 AM on May 2, 2009


What about the 2009 seasonal flu outbreak? It's already claimed 13,000 precious American lives!
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 8:02 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Why hasn't every 2nd person I meet got some story about their grandparent's family

In part because the 1918 pandemic occurred over 90 years ago. This was more likely something your great-grandparents experienced. The few survivors living today are over ninety years old, and probably only centenarians have first-hand memories of the event.

In some families, a memory of the time will have to have passed through four generations. Stories of the time are taking their place among the oral histories of the flu pandemics of 1889 and earlier.
posted by ardgedee at 8:22 AM on May 2, 2009


They ran out of coffins. People did not want to talk about the epidemic later.

Now that I know someone at some point in time would have been offended, I take surrogate offense for them! I am so offended at this discussion, just like a denizen of the 1920's would be!

(Not making fun of anyone actually posting in this thread, just the "taking surrogate offense" behavior in general.)
posted by XMLicious at 8:22 AM on May 2, 2009


Way to HAM it up everybody!

Get it, ham?

I guess I'll just go sit in the corner.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:29 AM on May 2, 2009


Wow, I had not heard about this.

BECAUSE I AM A DEAF-MUTE TRAPPED IN A WELL.
posted by GuyZero at 8:40 AM on May 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Weird, but as far as I can tell no one in my family - no one - died of Spanish Flu. Are there are maps showing areas the flu didn't get to back then?
posted by dilettante at 8:42 AM on May 2, 2009


My late father remembered seeing railroad cars full of coffins passing by his Pennsylvania home.
posted by pentagoet at 8:42 AM on May 2, 2009


Guess how many people die as a result of cars each and every year?

Carmageddon!
posted by Drasher at 8:46 AM on May 2, 2009


one of the quickest knee-jerks of an armoured mind ever! condolences!
posted by kitchenrat at 8:55 AM on May 2, 2009


In part because the 1918 pandemic occurred over 90 years ago.

But only in part; from what I've read, people didn't talk about it much in the immediate aftermath, either. It's truly weird: we're obsessed by war and love to talk about it, but we seem programmed to ignore "natural" deaths—not at the time, obviously, but afterward it just doesn't seem to make good conversation fodder. And the car thing is a good parallel; as many Americans die from cars every year as died in the entire Vietnam War, but which gets more press?
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on May 2, 2009


I know more about the bubonic plague than I do the Spanish flu epidemic. It's almost forgotten - from where I stand at least.

Not forgotten here. I watched "Upstairs Downstairs" at an impressionable age so perhaps the "swine flu joke" responders also do not consider it a newsflash.

The only factoid I know about the Bubonic Plague is that it killed 1/4 of the population of Europe.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:04 AM on May 2, 2009


Guess how many people die as a result of cars each and every year?

Are cars contagious?


Yes! There are few households that don't have a car or two, lurking in some dark room of the house, or idly sitting in front of their apartment. Kids can catch car fever in early years, often sprouting up as numerous miniature cars. These toy cars are given to children as gifts from unsuspecting adults, reinforcing the notion that cars are safe and fun, working to continue the spread of full-scale cars in older populations. And now with the Tata, many more are able to get cars.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Speaking of divine-wrath-type plagues, check out the Justinian Plague. Moreso even than from historical sources we know it was a major epidemiological event because in many widely-distributed locations the archaeological record simply stops in that year.
posted by XMLicious at 9:25 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My husband works for a large distribution company, and tells me that people are going INSANE. Everywhere is running out of hand sanitizer, and it has now become currency. They have companies ordering thousands of dollars worth of sanitizer and cleaners strictly over the Swine Flu.

Mass hysteria! Everyone do the panic dance! Even though it's easily treated with Tamiflu!
posted by Malice at 9:32 AM on May 2, 2009


In some families, a memory of the time will have to have passed through four generations. Stories of the time are taking their place among the oral histories of the flu pandemics of 1889 and earlier.

And see, that's the interesting thing -- the mortality rates on the 1889-92 flu (which then was known as the Russian flu) was 3-5x higher than the Spanish flu. But there are three reasons why we have zero memory of the 1889-92 pandemic:

1. The Russian flu was a multi-year event, and when it arrived in each country varied considerably. Some parts of England went through six waves of the virus. The 1918 flu, OTOH, had three waves -- the herald wave in the spring-summer of 1918, the second and worst wave in the fall-winter of 1918, and a smaller third wave in 1919.

2. The Russian flu doesn't seem to have been as communicable as the Spanish flu, which spread rapidly (and probably led to it burning itself out within a couple years).

3. The W-shaped mortality graph of Spanish flu, which is very unusual for an influenza outbreak. It's that W-shaped curve that has capture our imagination -- a youth-driven culture fears what kills youth. But since Russian flu's mortality by age curve was similar to a normal flu curve only much higher, it just became "another bad flu" in our imagination.
posted by dw at 9:48 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I keep wondering is what the govt is going to sneak by with bad legislation while everyone is CAPSLOCKSWINEPANICOMGRONPAUL-ing

The death toll is not crazy, most patients are treated as outpatients, but the news is all PANIC!

Something else is working behind the scene, PATRIOT act style

Keep an eye out for something fishy
posted by Balisong at 9:49 AM on May 2, 2009


In 1918 people were advised to wear masks which did nothing to filter viruses.

A mask's filtering ability may have nothing to do with its efficacy against influenza. It may be that by wearing a mask you're minimizing your ability to put your hands near your nose or mouth.
posted by dw at 9:53 AM on May 2, 2009


can we stop making stupid swine flu jokes?

Joking helps lessen the (unnecessary?) fear and hype around the new H1N1 strain, because it's probably not as bad as we thought. Dr Anne Schuchat, acting deputy director of America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that although experts were concerned about the possibility of severe cases, the majority so far had been "mild, self-limited illness".

In other words: don't believe the hype.

Something something laughter best medicine something something
posted by filthy light thief at 9:58 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


re the question of why bubonic plague/black death is more 'famous' than the Spanish flu:

based on what I learned whilst pursuing my medieval history degree (studying under a prof who specialized in disease + history and wrote a book about the plague...)

a reason the 2nd plague pandemic was so deeply impactful is not due to number of people killed but the fact that once established in europe (mid1300s) it stayed for 300-400 years, striking every 10-15 years, taking out a nice 5-15% with each swipe, over and over.

the plague pandemic is considered to have greatly contributed to the end of fuedalism in europe. (collapse/change in entire social/political/economic structure of the society). um....if you want to ready about it...

here is a start
posted by supermedusa at 10:08 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, the hysteria over swine flu is probably a good thing. It means the news outlets have nothing better or more urgent to report. Remember, no matter what is happening, the "top" story of the day gets the headlines.

"Family of Four Breaks Sunday Tradition to Eat Lunch at McDonald's" could be a headline, with the commensurate breathless analysis of the implications - Does this represent a repudiation of the past? Is it the start of a trend in America? Are there financial reasons for eating at McDonald's? How has McDonald's shaped the American psyche? And so on.

The thing is, editors need to sell papers (figuratively speaking of course), so keying on something that answers a perceived and immediate need is simply good editorial/marketing policy. It does become a self reinforcing meme, though, as newspapers compete to have the most, and most current information. Scary stories of uncontrollable events on a global scale are mana from heaven to news outlets.
posted by Xoebe at 10:10 AM on May 2, 2009


My great grand father and his best friend lost their young wives (mid 20s) in NYC the same week due to the 1918 flu. They were buried in the same grave. My great grandfather ended up taking my infant grand mother back to Poland right afterward.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2009


With Gods who bless us with pandemics, who needs enemies?
posted by found missing at 10:16 AM on May 2, 2009


is it Ghostbusters 2?
posted by cazoo at 10:39 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of my duties at an historic church in Texas was to maintain the parish records. As the parish archivist I had access to records as far back as the 1850's. The spike in parish deaths amongst mostly young adults and teens during the Spanish Flu pandemic was frightening. There were burials at least once per week, often more, for months in a parish of a few hundred individuals.
posted by jim in austin at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2009


Interesting article from The New England Journal of Medicine (May 2005): Preparing for the Next Pandemic.
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on May 2, 2009


The important and almost incomprehensible fact about the Spanish flu is that it killed millions upon millions of people in a year or less. Nothing else - no infection, war, no famine - has ever killed so many in as short a period. And yet it has never inspired awe, not in 1918 and not since.

Thanks, clerestory. You don't realise how much your post has put my mind at ease.

I don't buy the "it was too long ago" argument. And thanks for the stat, wolof, but considering Australia has had millions of European immigrants since then, I still don't know of one friend with a personal anecdote.

Nah. Still can't get my head around it.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2009


My grandmother lost her brother, aged 8, in 1918. He was always the strong one. Everyone else in the family got the flu, recovered, but he just burnt away.

My parents still have the jotter he drew in while he was sick, poignant biblical quotations and all.
posted by scruss at 11:15 AM on May 2, 2009


"Family of Four Breaks Sunday Tradition to Eat Lunch at McDonald's" -- Is it the start of a trend in America?

Perfect fodder for a New York Times Style section article!
posted by ericb at 11:16 AM on May 2, 2009


I'm guessing religious beliefs have been the cause of more deaths than both
World Wars and all the pandemics combined.
posted by reidfleming at 11:22 AM on May 2, 2009


I'm guessing religious beliefs have been the cause of more deaths than both
World Wars and all the pandemics combined.


Thanks for trolling. The egress is down the hall to the left; use it.
posted by languagehat at 11:49 AM on May 2, 2009


can we stop making stupid swine flu jokes?

Who is this we? You need to make a stupid swine flu joke first before you can join us in stopping.

And frankly - no way. If we can't make stupid bacon-lung jokes then the viruses have won. Or something. Look, if I can't laugh, I'm going to coat my naked body in alcohol gel hand sanitizer and run gibbering mad into the streets.

Oh, fine, sure I'll be genuine and earnest for a second.

Look, I'm as seriously concerned - if not more concerned - than anyone about this. I just sorted my earthquake survival kit and added stuff like disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and bleach. Since I live in California I've basically spent the last week worrying my ass off having difficulty sleeping and obsessively refreshing the infection map, the veratect twitter feed, the wikipedia page and more. I'm about as prepared and as educated as I'm ever going to be for this. I am ready for and expecting everything from "Oh, that wasn't so bad. This time." to "Wow, half the country is sick and services are disrupted, time for a long camping trip!" all the way up to "OMG PIGFLU ZOMBIE HORDES WHERE'S MY MACHETE?"

Hadjiboy has a history of posting a variety of panicked or moralizing shock posts with much unwanted and unneeded editorializing. Much of the reaction you see here is a reaction to that posting history. This kind of post isn't well suited for MetaFilter - we get more than enough doomsday news from other sources.

Hadjiboy - it might help if you lived in the US and understood more about how completely saturated our news channels, magazines and papers are with this sort of negatively charged, eyeball grabbing, panic inducing bullshit. We're soaking in it. Having you add fuel to that fire has always felt like you were trying to teach our grandmas how to suck eggs, and this is the kind of post I tried to dissuade you from making when I wrote to you, and I feel like I've wasted my time.

As you can see I'm not one to bury my head in the sand. If anything, I'm too damn aware and paranoid. I won't argue that MetaFilter needs to be all fluffy-happy links all the time, but on the other hand we don't really need this kind of panicked information on MetaFilter. There's a bunch of open threads about the topic, anyway.

All that said, the links themselves are good and interesting, there's not very much editorializing and the post itself isn't terrible - which is probably why it wasn't deleted. It's just badly timed, and posted by someone who has a history of - more or less - declaring loudly that the sky is falling. It's not a good mix or a promising pattern.


And all that being said - this is all the fault of you baconators. We're being punished for covering everything in bacon, making bacon salad bowls, ground-bacon burgers, bacon AK-47s, chicken-fried bacon, canned bacon, Bacon flavored Spam, bacon bacon bacon spam bacon bacon spam bacon bacon.

Oink.
posted by loquacious at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


worst epidemic that the United States has ever known, yeah. But not the worst the inhabitants of North America has ever known. Some estimates of between 70%-90% of the pre-Columbus died because of things such as smallpox (amongst others).
posted by edgeways at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2009


Something else is working behind the scene, PATRIOT act style

Ah-CHOO!

Excuse me! Oh, don't worry, it's not the flu -- it's just my tinfoil allergy acting up.
posted by The Tensor at 1:16 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


17 million deaths in the 1918 pandemic were in India alone, making it the single hardest-hit area. By comparison, only 500-600K Americans died, and about 250K in the UK. This at a time when widespread diseases with high fatalities were not uncommon, and also in the immediate aftermath of a war that took the llives of nearly 1 million British soldiers and over 150,000 Anerican soldiers.

In other words, most Americans, British, et.al. did not know how big the pandemic was worldwide, and it wasn't a huge trauma for them because it wasn't much worse that what they were used to.
posted by briank at 1:19 PM on May 2, 2009


Some estimates of between 70%-90% of the pre-Columbus died because of things such as smallpox (amongst others).

I just finshed reading '1491' by Charles C. Mann. A central (and eye-opening) theme of the book is the massive "disease-related population loss" in North, Central and South America during the time you cite.

A good read, as is 'Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies' by Jared Diamond.
posted by ericb at 2:00 PM on May 2, 2009


"...the most compelling of [Charles Mann's] eye-opening [Hey!] revisionist stories are among the best-founded: the stories of early American-European contact. To many of those who were there, the earliest encounters felt more like a meeting of equals than one of natural domination. And those who came later and found an emptied landscape that seemed ripe for the taking, Mann argues convincingly, encountered not the natural and unchanging state of the native American, but the evidence of a sudden calamity: the ravages of what was likely the greatest epidemic in human history, the smallpox and other diseases introduced inadvertently by Europeans to a population without immunity, which swept through the Americas faster than the explorers who brought it, and left behind for their discovery a land that held only a shadow of the thriving cultures that it had sustained for centuries before."*
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


In other words, most Americans, British, et.al. did not know how big the pandemic was worldwide, and it wasn't a huge trauma for them because it wasn't much worse that what they were used to.

That's ridiculous. Have you even looked at any newspapers or other material from the time? It was a huge story and people were terrified. (And yes, they did "know how big the pandemic was worldwide"; it was the twentieth century, and they had printing presses and telegraphs and telephones and everything. We're not talking primitive tribes squatting in caves and unaware of the existence of the rest of humanity.)
posted by languagehat at 2:18 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


you'd have to be primitive indeed to squat in your own cave.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What amazes me the most about the "Spanish Flu" of 1918, is that we were dumb enough, to go and get some of it. We did just that, we went up to Alaska, and dug up frozen bodies of individuals that died from it. That virus wasn't complete, so, not being nearly as smart as we give ourselves credit for, we finished up the missing pieces of that virus. So we could "study" it. We brought it back to life. So any crazy lab rat, with Biblical ideations, can unleash that stuff, with a minimum of effort and a plane ticket to a large city.

In case you haven't read, of late, about the lousy security in our labs of that sort, then check it out.
posted by Oyéah at 8:46 PM on May 2, 2009


We did just that, we went up to Alaska, and dug up frozen bodies of individuals that died from it.

Yep.

From frozen Alaska to the lab: a virus 39,000 times more virulent than flu.
posted by ericb at 9:03 PM on May 2, 2009


I did write this post as a response to the recent SwineFlu outbreak that we are having right now, but I never expected people to be so Cavalier about it.

AMONGST.. our weaponry... are fear, suprise, and a ruthless level fo snarkiness.
posted by cavalier at 1:52 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


THANKS.. fo suprising.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:59 AM on May 3, 2009


I think that the swine flu jokes are totally funny... but at the same time, I've had to actually convince people that this is a REAL virus and yeah, people COULD die from it. It was totally, totally bizarre. The media hysteria has lulled people into a state of "Get real. And you told me to be scared of SARS!" I'm not saying we're all gonna die, but "Oh, but they'll have a vaccine ready in August - that's plenty of time!"is totally misunderstanding how a pandemic works. Also: "No one's died from it in the US!"

YET.

I agree that the media is overdoing it, but the flu in and of itself is a nasty bug that kills thousands of people per year. A particularly NASTY flu is well worth washing your hands a few (hundred) extra times per day. I'm not sure if I'm ready to stock up for the zombie apocalypse quite yet, but I am considering buying stock in hand sanitizer.

And LOL BACON jokes.

Also: The Great Influenza is a very informative book, but pretty dry. It could have benefited from some more mucus.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:41 PM on May 3, 2009


Joining the party late to say that I had an awesome great-grandmother who used to tell us the story (more and more frequently as she got older) about how she got the Spanish Influenza in 1919 (when she was 19), had a fever well over 100 for several days, and lost all of her long, red hair. In her retellings, losing all of her hair was far more traumatic than the influenza. She recovered, had 9 children, and lived to be 106.
posted by amarie at 1:44 PM on May 5, 2009


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