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A Look Back At The Spanish Flu

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

In the fall of 1918 Chilliwack schools, churches, theatres, pool rooms and public auctions were cancelled or closed. Travelling to Vancouver was also not recommended. The reason for these restrictions was to try to control the spread of Spanish Influenza.

Most of us probably didn’t give much thought about the 1918 pandemic until COVID-19 and the word pandemic unfortunately became part of our everyday vocabulary.

The 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak was also referred to as pandemic, and there are some similarities – but there are also vast differences between what we’re experiencing with COVID-19 and the devastation the Spanish flu caused.

First thing to consider was that the world was at war in 1918. The virus was often spread by soldiers returning from battle, as they travelled on crowded ships and trains to get home. Young healthy people aged 20 to 40 suffered the greatest mortality – unique to the 1918 pandemic. There was also a shortage of doctors at home as many medical personnel were assisting with the war effort overseas. And there was no vaccine available to fight the Spanish Flu.

  • One third of the world’s population was infected by the Spanish Flu;

  • 50% of those infected were healthy young men and women under 40;

  • 3% of the world’s population died;

  • The Spanish Flu killed more people in 18 months than AIDS has killed in 35 years or the Black Plague killed in 100;

  • The Pandemic brought about the creation of the Federal Department of Health;

  • The Pandemic also persuaded Canadians to recognize disease as being a community problem, not an individual one.

But similarities do exist in how we responded to the viruses - both then and now.

Masks became mandatory during the Spanish Influenza outbreak, and fines were handed out for non-compliance. Businesses had their opening hours restricted and some were closed altogether.

But I think all would agree – having wet feet did not hasten getting the virus, as an advertisement in the November, 1918 Chilliwack Progress for the Chilliwack Shoe Company would like you to believe!

Stay safe, stay healthy and remember Covid 19 will one day also be a past memory.

All Images Courtesy of Chilliwack Progress Archives


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