Comparing Today’s COVID-19 To 1918 Flu Pandemic In Indiana

As bad as the current COVID-19 pandemic is for Hoosiers and the economy, in the future it may be viewed as an inconvenience when compared with the deaths from H1N1 bird flu pandemic of 1918-1919. The flu then was called Spanish Flu even though there is no evidence that it originated in Spain.
Statewide 350,000 Hoosiers were afflicted by the seasonal influenza that claimed the lives of 14,120. As of this writing there are just over 13,000 cases of COVID-19 and a total of just over 700 deaths. Nationwide 675,000 Americans died in a six-month period from September 1918 to March 1919.
Spread of the disease was perhaps made worse by the reaction in some quarters to preventing its spread. In what clearly could be called deja vu to present day, public health officials encouraged quarantines for people and the prohibition of large public gatherings including school, work and church. While there was some resistance from Indiana schools being called off, some churches continued to hold worship services spreading the flu.
There was even public disagreement about the value of cloth face masks that were distributed en masse by the Red Cross and other community organizations.
The state recorded its first flu contamination in September 1918. Since there was no vaccine for the flu, like today’s COVID-19, infections and deaths grew quickly.
And as the number of flu cases rapidly grew, like today, there were many who remained skeptical about the seriousness of the flu or the methods to prevent it.
While the growing flu epidemic was front-page news in many daily newspapers of the time, stories were run far below ongoing coverage of World War I in Europe.
Health departments ordered residents to place placards in the front yards of families who had members sick with the flu. And there was the continued rise in deaths as dozens and eventually hundreds of people fell ill and died.
Newspapers carried stories that indicated that of the more than 3,200 deaths statewide in less than two months, more than half of the affected were between the ages of 20 and 40, resulting in more than 3,000 Indiana children being made orphans.
Before the Indiana influenza pandemic was over, more than 150,000 Indiana residents were infected with influenza between September 8, 1918, and March 15, 1919. Statewide, 14,120 Hoosiers died, 1,632 of them in Indianapolis during that period.