Some of you may know that my new book, Enza, is a story that deals with the 1918/1919 influenza pandemic. But I wonder how many people have ever actually heard of it. I know I don’t remember the subject ever coming up in all of the history classes I took. Because I’m fairly sure that if it had, I’d have remembered it. The same way I remember learning about the Holocaust and other horrific events.
Estimates for the death toll, worldwide, range between twenty to forty million and fifty to one-hundred million, depending on the source. And even though most strains of influenza kill only the very young and the elderly, more than half the deaths in the 1818/1919 pandemic occurred in those 18-40 years old. Stanford.edu states, “More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.” And they’re the ones estimating the lower numbers.
I also learned, while watching the PBS documentary, that the Spanish flu killed more Americans than all of the wars in the 20th century. That’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it?
To put all of this in perspective, a number of sources claim that, “If 1918-19 mortality data are extrapolated to the current U.S. population, 1.7 million people could die, half of them between the ages of 18 and 40. Globally,those same estimates yield 180-360 million deaths…” Scary thought, isn’t it?
But it was the thought of those who perished nearly a century ago that nagged at me…and wouldn’t let me alone…until I began to write, and finally finished, Enza.
Given that I’d only penned romance novels until then, it was a tough subject for me to delve into. Especially when I only had two choices. Play the influenza aspect down, or try to keep the story true to what really happened. I chose the latter. It was a horrible time in our history and it deserves to be remembered. So do all of the people who lost their lives to it.
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Gracious! And I thought that stomach bug we had last week was bad. Kudos to you for incorporating history into your plot.
Thanks. It’s definitely one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever worked on. Hope you and your family are feeling better this week. Stomach bugs are a nasty thing! 🙂
AMAZING I had no idea. Gives me a new level of fear about a modern pandemic. wow. I don’t know whether to say thanks or not, Kristy. scared the daylights out of me.
I know what you mean. Having learned so much about that pandemic, I have to say when things like H1N1 start making the news, I start to sweat a little bit. And trying to explain why it makes me so nervous can be interesting…because people will think I’m a little paranoid. I just want to say…LOOK IT UP…you might be a little paranoid, too. 🙂
That little rhyme has been stuck in my head since you told me yesterday. So odd. Before this I think the most I’ve watched on this was about a hospital that treated the sick. Did you read up on that? Had a tunnel to hide all the bodies they carted to the train so people wouldn’t see how many were dying. It’s among America’s most haunted now. 😉
I know what you mean, Debra. It stuck in my head for a long time. It’s just so eerie…and a very morbid thing for kids to be chanting during a time like that.
No, I never heard about that hospital or tunnel. Do you remember anymore details? I can’t find anything on Google about it but would love to find out more about it. 🙂
Wow, you’re right. I hadn’t heard of it before because with those stats I would have remembered. Why do you think more people haven’t heard about it?
From everything I’ve read, it was such a horrible, traumatic event that people just wanted to wipe it out of their minds. I would have thought the opposite would have happened…learn from that experience and make sure it never happens again. It just amazes me when I see some of the insignificant, unimportant that have historical value, yet this was swept right under a rug.
What really bothers me is that scientists dug up bodies of Spanish flu victims and have tissue samples in their labs. Sure hope no one ever decides it’s a good tool for germ warfare. Yes, that sounds paranoid, lol, but I’ve done a LOT of research. Hard not to wonder about it when the virus that has such killing potential has been resurrected.