DID THE 1918 INFLUENZA COME FROM?
following the 1918 influenza pandemic many researchers speculated
on the origin of the disease. As many influenza A strains
were known to arise in the Orient it was first thought that
the virulent 1918 form had also began in the east. Scientists
thought the outbreak had begun in China and had been spread
by Chinese and Vietnamese labourers entering both Europe and
America . Others believed that it had its beginnings in an
outbreak of a flu-like disease in a British Army camp in France
during 1916. Some of this speculation was based on the theory
that the influenza mutation occurred two to three years before
the world-wide pandemic.
researchers looking at the dispersal of the disease have come
to a different conclusion. Many now believe that the mutation
probably occurred only a few months before it rapidly spread
across the world and that the mutation occurred in the United
was once believed that the first severe outbreak of influenza
in the United States was at Camp Funston , now Camp Riley
, in Kansas . A cook at the base was thought to have been
the source of the outbreak. It now seems likely that the disease
was carried into the camp by soldiers from Haskell County
, three hundred miles to the west.
An outbreak of a new and virulent influenza was reported by
the local doctor in February 1918. The county newspaper, the
Santa Fe Monitor , reported the epidemic, recording
many people were ill with pneumonia and dying. The newspaper
also reported that young men from the sparsely populated county
were reporting to Camp Funston.
first cases were recorded in the camp on March 4 and within
three weeks over 1100 soldiers were hospitalised and thousands
more were being treated at makeshift infirmaries.
from Camp Funston were transferred to other camps and sent
overseas, unwittingly spreading the disease. During the American
spring of 1918, thirty of America 's fifty biggest cities
reported an April spike in deaths from influenza, and in the
French city of Brest , the arrival point of the largest numbers
of American soldiers, the disease entered Europe .
quickly spread across the Continent. Its quick proliferation
was largely hidden from the public as it was not reported
in the warring countries and it became known as ‘Spanish Flu',
as Spain was not participating in World War One and had no
censorship. The Spanish, ironically, called it ‘French Flu.'
first outbreak was of a milder nature than the strain that
later spread around the world. This second strain seems to
have originated simultaneously in France , the United States
and Sierra Leone in August 1918. Many sufferers developed
bronchial pneumonia or septicemic blood poisoning. Others
developed cyanosis (blue-toned skin) through the low oxygen
levels in their blood. This condition was often fatal, and
led to another common name for the flu, ‘Black Plague.'
was this second wave that caused the pandemic in New Zealand
in late 1918.