The Great Flu (no, not mine)

It may not surprise you to learn that natural disasters greatly intrigue me.

I own books about the Krakatoa volcanic explosion of 1883, the Johnstown Flood of 1889, and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. My “purchased but un-read” shelf holds a book about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Give me a disaster, and enough time, and I’ll research it.

(I also have books about the sinkings of the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the USS Indianapolis. And the Mount Everest disaster of 1996. And a variety of famous crimes. But I’m not macabre, honestly.)

As it happens, I started writing this post last week, a few days before I (ironically) came down with the nastiest case of stomach flu I’ve ever had, from which I’m still recovering. I am assuming that I did not give myself bad flu juju with all the researching.

Anyway, I recently read a novel that incorporated the events of the real-life 1918 influenza pandemic. (The novel wasn’t that great, so I’ll spare you the title.) In a note about the book, the author wrote that, for some reason, many people know very little about the 1918 flu. Either it isn’t taught in school, or it’s glossed over. I certainly don’t remember learning about it.

Which is strange, because that flu has been called “the worst medical holocaust in history.” Its only possible rival is the European Black Death of the mid-14th-century. I’ll get to the statistics in a moment. Continue reading