I had a little bird, it's name was Enza...
June 21, 2020 1:20 AM   Subscribe

American Experience: Influenza 1918 is a 1998 PBS documentary on the pandemic often referred to as the Spanish Flu. It provides an interesting historical perspective on our current situation.

Naturally, this being an episode of the American Experience documentary series, this 51 minute film focuses on America, however this pandemic infected one third of the world's population with a death toll only second to the Black Death.

One striking difference to COVID-19 was its pattern of fatality:

"The pandemic mostly killed young adults. In 1918–1919, 99% of pandemic influenza deaths in the U.S. occurred in people under 65, and nearly half of deaths were in young adults 20 to 40 years old." "[It] lowered the average life expectancy in the United States by more than 12 years."
posted by fairmettle (5 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting this!
posted by carter at 4:46 AM on June 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I happened to catch this as a rerun about three years ago. It's very much worth watching. Amazing how all that happened and then was purposely forgotten by those who went through it. It was essentially erased from history except as a throwaway phrase "Spanish Flu" and the extent of what happened was simply disappeared.

It's astounding that I only heard most of these these details just a few years ago.
posted by SoberHighland at 5:04 AM on June 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I knew about the Spanish Flu through a family story. Otherwise I think no one paid much attention to it outside of the medical field by the time I was growing up. My grandfather was living in Philadelphia, PA at the time, and officials were stupid and went ahead with a parade. I don't know if my grandfather was one of the people who went to the parade, but he was certainly one of the people who got the Spanish Flu after, and he was working in a factory so there was plenty of opportunity for him to be around lots of people and catch it. My mother always told me that despite him being young and healthy, he was so sick with it that he was in the hospital and delirious for some days.

My mother felt too many people had become complacent about medical stuff, and about vaccines, so she had several cautionary tales: her father and the Spanish Flu, her sister nearly dying of Whooping Cough as a baby, and herself having Polio (she was paralyzed on one side, but fortunately recovered, though she lived with with lifelong effects from it).
posted by gudrun at 7:13 AM on June 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

I've seen this twice. It's very good but very sad (duh). Before I watched it, I didn't really know anything about it other than vague awareness that it happened.

It's a chilling tale. Know how we've scrambling to figure out Covid-19? Imagine doing that without the past century's worth of technology and medical knowledge -- and a higher death rate.
posted by pmurray63 at 4:24 PM on June 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

If I had it to do over again, I would have extended this thread's title to properly set up the schoolyard rhyme's pun:

I had a little bird, it's name was Enza, I opened the window, and...
posted by fairmettle at 11:47 PM on June 27, 2020

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