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Swine Flu-1918 variety

Several features about "swine flu" are appearing in local newspapers and on TV. This type of information has been seen before, from Asian flu, to avian flu, and back to the 1918 epidemic of the Spanish influenza. History does repeat itself.

On Nov. 1, 1918, Sussex, Lisbon and Lannon subscribers to the Menomonee Falls News received front page identification and treatment of the Spanish flu. The following headlines and copy are part of the lengthy feature. The final paragraphs not included appeared to be company propaganda for Vick's VapoRub, going into great detail about the ingredients, the uses, and benefits in treating sickness.


Nothing new - Simply the Old Grip or La Grippe that was epidemic in 1889-90, only then it came from Russia by way of France and now this time by way of Spain.

Go to bed and stay quiet, take a laxative, eat plenty of nourishing food, keep up your strength - nature is the only "cure."


Spanish Influenza, which appeared in Spain in May, has all the appearances of grip, or la grippe, which has swept over the world in numerous epidemics as far back as history runs. Hippocrates refers to an epidemic in 412 B.C., which is regarded by many to have been influenza. Every century has had its attacks. This country has had five epidemics, the last in 1889-90.

There is no occasion for panic - influenza itself has a very low percentage of fatalities - not over one death out of every 400 cases, according to the N.C. board of health. The chief danger lies in complications arising, attacking principally patients in a run-down condition - those who don't go to bed soon enough or those who get up too early.


Grip, or influenza, as it is now called, usually begins with a chill, followed by aching, feverishness, and sometimes nausea and dizziness, and a general feeling of weakness and depression. The temperature is from 100 to 104, and the fever usually lasts from three to five days. The germs attack the mucous membrane or lining of the air passages, nose, throat and bronchial tubes; there is usually a hard cough, especially bad at night: oftentimes a sore throat or tonsillitis, and frequently all the appearances of a severe head cold.


Go to bed at the first symptoms, not only for your own sake, but to avoid spreading the disease to others - take a purgative, eat plenty of nourishing food, remain perfectly quiet and don't worry. Quinine, aspirin or Dover's Powder's, etc., may be administered by the physician's directions to relieve the aching. But there is no cure of specific for influenza - the disease must run its course. Nature herself will throw off the attack if only you keep up your strength. The chief danger lies in the complications which may arise. Influenza so weakens the bodily resistance that there is danger of pneumonia or bronchitis developing, and sometimes inflammation of the middle ear or heart affections. For these reasons it is very important that the patient remain in bed until his strength returns - stay in bed at least two days or more after the fever has left you, or if you are over 50 or not strong stay in bed four days or more, according to the severity of the attack.

(End of newspaper article)

Spanish flu had its big run in 1917-18, but the Unites States had trouble with it from 1919 to the mid 1920s. It is estimated that 20 million people died of it world wide. My grandfather, Herman Fred Halbach, died from it in 1920 in Waterford.

Waukesha had its infections and deaths, but local cemetery records show that St. Alban's cemetery had about 10 burials in 1915-16, which dropped to only five in 1917-18, only to climb to about 20 in the early 1920s.

Meanwhile, at the St. James Catholic Church cemetery, 1915-17 saw 21 burials, and there were 34 burials from 1918-20. The 1921-23 era saw 23 burials, and then half of that or less during the next decade.

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