A century of Spanish Flu

A century of Spanish Flu

Obatlambungbengkak – EXACTLY a century ago, the Spanish Flu rocked the world. No country escapes its attacks. The influenza pandemic killed millions of people. Spanish flu kills about two to 20 percent of infected sufferers. This percentage is much higher than ordinary influenza which is only able to kill 0.1 percent of the total sufferers. The enormity of this plague attack led US virologist Jeffery Taubenberger to call the Spanish Flu “The Mother of All Pandemics.”

According to Frank Macfarlane Burnet, an Australian virologist who has dedicated his life to studying influenza, the 1918 pandemic began in Camp Funston and Haskell County (Kansas), United States. Meanwhile, according to the North China Daily News, as quoted by the Pewarta Soerabaia daily, the pandemic starts in Sweden or Russia and then spreads to China, Japan and Southeast Asia.
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Several American epidemiologists concluded that the flu virus was carried by Chinese and Vietnamese workers who were employed by the British and French militaries during World War I (WWI). The main reason is that they are used to living close to birds and pigs. However, this argument was denied by Dr. Edwin Jordan, editor of the Journal of Infectious Disease, said that the flu outbreak in China was not spreading and dangerous. Jordan also disagrees with the theory that says India or France as the origin of the virus, considering that the flu viruses in these two countries are only endemic.

However, none of the theories mention Spain as the origin of the virus because of what happened during WW1. The naming of a pandemic with the Spanish Flu, according to Gina Kolata in her book, Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It, came from the news in the Spanish media, which at that time had quite an open circulation due to the country’s neutrality. in World War I. The news immediately spread outside of Spain, making the epidemic known as the “Spanish Flu” even though the Spaniards called the pandemic the “French Flu”.

The speed of transmission is of the virus because spreading from air that can be touch to any suspect healthy human. The speed of transmission and the wide reach of the pandemic have made the number of victims very high. It is estimated that one billion people (60 percent of the world’s total population) are contaminated with the virus.

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The death toll is estimated at 21 million people (John Barry) to 50-100 million people (Nial Johnson and Juergen Mueller), where the largest deaths occurred in toddlers, people aged 20-40 years, and people aged 70-74 years. That means, in the period March 1918-September 1919, the Spanish Flu claimed about two percent of the world’s population, which at that time was around 1.7 billion people. This figure far exceeds the number of victims of World War I, which ranges from 9.2 million to 15.9 million. Epidemiologists concluded that the Spanish flu was the deadliest infectious disease in human history, far more dangerous than smallpox, bubonic plague and cholera.
Spanish flu to Indonesia

In the Indies (now Indonesia), the pandemic was carried in, most likely by sea, either through passenger ships or cargo ships. The Dutch East Indies government noted that this virus was first carried by ship passengers from Malaysia and Singapore and spread via North Sumatra. A marine police investigation of the passenger ships Maetsuycker, Singkarah, and Van Imhoff found several passengers tested positive for the virus. The virus even infected all the passengers and crew of the Toyen Maru ship who had just arrived in Makassar from Probolinggo.

Interestingly, the daily Sin Po and Pewarta Soerabaia have several names to describe the pandemic: “Strange Diseases”, “Secret Diseases”, and “Spanje Colds”. In one of his articles, the Soerabaia reporter even used the term “Russische Influenza” even though the Russian flu pandemic had ended in 1890. However, in subsequent articles, both Sin Po and the Soerabaia reporter used a terminology commonly used around the world to refer to this disease: Spanish Flu .

When the virus started attacking major cities in Java in July 1918, the government and residents did not pay attention. With no any warning that cause the virus running wildly not notice. Moreover, at that time the government’s attention was more focused on handling other infectious diseases such as cholera, bubonic plague and smallpox.

Author: Vera Ryan