History of Influenza

Rapid Spread

In the autumn, the virus landed back in the United States, this time at Camp Devans. The army base just outside Boston served as an important supply line for the exchange of soldiers to and from the war. A case of the flu was diagnosed on September 12, and the disease spread explosively after that. By the end of October, more than 17,000 cases had been reported in Devans. Nearly 800 men, all in their peak years of prowess, had died.

Autopsies Reveal...

Autopsies of flu victims revealed swollen, wet lungs filled with enormous quantities of thin, bloody fluid. In the passages leading to the throat the fluid mixed with air and created a bloody froth.

In a matter of months, the flu pushed into the general population of the country. Instead of ships and trenches, other activities now spurred the flu's movement.

Large, flag-waving crowds packed along hometown streets for money-raising Liberty Loan drives. People strained to hear rousing speeches and witness red, white and blue parades. All the while, people sneezed and coughed on each other. In Philadelphia, 200,000 gathered for one such day of support for the soldiers war. Shortly afterward, the flu swept through the city. At its peak, more than 11,000 people died in one month — many healthy in the morning and lifeless at night.

Cities and small towns continued to encourage large crowds in narrow streets for Liberty Loan drives. The virus traveled the highways and railways bringing small and large towns to their knees with sickness. Those who had experienced the devastation on the East Coast attempted to warn those on the other side of the country.