SPOKANE, Wash. – This flu season marks 100 years since a global pandemic of flu killed more than 50 million people, including at least 4,879 in Washington State.
According to a release from the Washington State Department of Health, the 1918 pandemic, later called “the Spanish Flu” started in Kansas and eventually made its way to Washington State when Navy recruits docked near Bremerton.
“Within a week, at least 173 people were stricken at Camp Lewis south of Tacoma,” health officials wrote in a release. “Two days later, the disease appeared in Seattle.”
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare did not appear to have the exact number of deaths from the pandemic of 1918, however they did report in the city of Paris, Idaho the mortality rate was nearly 50 percent during the pandemic. Local newspapers apparently urged calm, but the Northern Idaho News of Sandpoint also noted as a precautionary measure schools would be closed indefinitely, churches, picture shows and all public gatherings of every kind were prohibited.
This year, the Centers for Disease Control reports there have been 37 children that died from the illness so far this season. It is currently widespread in just about every state. Data shows this season is already much worse than the previous two years.
Since the Spanish Flu pandemic, there have been three flu pandemics, according to the Washington State Department of Health, in 1957, 1968 and 2009, the latter being when a strain of the flu known as H1N1 killed about 284,000 people worldwide.
The 1918 pandemic infect about one-third of the world’s population and killed five percent of the people on the Earth.
The Washington State Department of Health quoted “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History” when they wrote the following in a release:
“Blood was everywhere, on linens, clothes, pouring out of some men’s nostrils and even ears, while others coughed it up. Many of the soldiers, boys in their teens, men in their twenties — healthy, normally ruddy men — were turning blue.”
On a year to year basis, the number of flu deaths can vary. During a mild season, influenza still claims thousands of lives.
According to the CDC, over a three-decade period starting in the mid-1970s, the number of flu deaths in the U.S. ranged from a low of about 3,000 a year to as many as 49,000 in a bad year, CBS reported.
To read more about the 1918 flu pandemic, click here.