Theories as the origin of the “Spanish” flu

The Spanish flue cost the life of more than 40 million people. Foto: Wikimedia commons

In a previous article on the “Spanish” flu we wrote that we would probably never know where the disease had it’s outbreak.

An excellent article in the Economist magazine of the 29.09.2018 headed: “A deadly touch of flu”. It puts forwards three theories of the origin of the outbreak.

British army camp ?

A characteristic of fatal cases of “Spanish” flu was a dark blue hue to the face of the victim before death.

A British virologist claims that as early as 1916 these blue facial symptoms were observed at a British army camp in Northern France.

American origin?

An American journalist wrote about a small, but severe outbreak of a flu-like disease in the area of Haskell County in Kansas in January 1918 .

Camp Funstan was a military base in Kansas. An army cook working there showed severe flu symptoms early in March 1918. A few hours later dozens of other base inhabitants were stricken with similar symptoms. Haskell County was one of the recruitment areas for Camp Funstan.

Chinese impact ?

A more unusual hypothesis is that in December 1917 a severe respiratory disease broke out in Shanxi province, China. This province, among others, provided workers for the Chinese Labor Corp. The workers were subsequently sent to Europe as auxiliaries to the war effort.

Read also: 536 AD, the worst year for mankind

Norwegian consequence

Norway did not escape the ravages of the “Spanish” flu.

Some 15 000 Norwegians died as a consequence of catching the virus. Considering the population of Norway in 1918 was approximately 2.6 million, this would be almost 6% of the population. If we then are considering that the fatality rate for the flu was between 5-10%, then up to as many as a 150 000 people could have been inflicted with the virus.