Articles, Blog

The 1918 Flu Pandemic – The Forgotten Plague – Extra History – #6

November 30, 2019

This year, Carnivale is different. The flu that had killed
15,000 in Rio is gone but its spirit lingers. Float crews adopt macabre themes
taken from the height of the outbreak. There’s the block
of the holy house, playing off a popular euphemism
for the hospital. Behind them, parades the block
of the midnight tea… …named after a rumor that doctors killed
terminal flu patients with opium overdoses. Street cars pass, decorated with tea pots
and cemetery gates. A few months before, the same street cars had collected
the city’s dead. [Opening music] The third wave of the pandemic
kept killing until 1920, but it was clear
that the worst was over. Humans had done little
to stop the virus. Instead, it simply ran out of fuel. Those who caught it
became immune and it spread across
the globe so fast… …infecting so many people that herd immunity began to protect
those who escaped previous waves… …but there were still
flare-ups. On November 11th, 1918 The news broke: an armistice. The Great War was over. People flooded the streets ignoring bans on public gatherings… …and in each city a new wave of infections followed
the impromptu celebrations. The same would happen again
and again on a smaller scale as loved ones gathered
to welcome returning soldiers home. There were still outbreaks, still deaths… …but everyone could see it was trailing off. The horror was past. All that remained was
to count the cost, a project
that continues to this day In the years after the pandemic researchers initially estimated
the disease had killed 20 million people Modern estimates have increased
that number to 50 million Though because statistics
aren’t available in the worst-hit regions like India and Russia, the final number may be
twice as many According to modern estimates,
it killed 17 to 20 million in India… …perhaps 4 million in Indonesia… …possibly a million in Russia… …400,000 in France… …and 390,000 in Japan In the United Kingdom,
it sickened 1/4 of the population and killed up to 220,000 In the U.S., it took around 675,000. More than the Civil War… …and killed 16,000 in Philadelphia alone But for a disease
that killed so many, it’s hard to point out
direct consequences. In fact, the flu seems to have worked
in tandem with the war, each magnifying
the effects of the other In the 1920s, a wave of political unrest
swept countries around the globe This was because of the war but also because
the flu had revealed deep inequalities, especially in colonial rule Post-viral fatigue from flu infections probably contributed to the depression
and listlessness that took hold after the war. Yet despite the heavy toll the flu took and the heroism of medical workers
that died fighting it… …there’s still no monument commemorating the event other than plaques
marking mass graves Textbooks mention it but usually just in passing We chose not to remember, which is why some have christened it The Forgotten plague. There are theories why society
chose to forget the flu. Perhaps it came and went so fast that people simply remembered it
as part of the war Or it’s possible that focus on the war and inability to see the big picture meant that society never really
absorbed what happened But keep in mind, it also hit a generation that was
just more used to epidemics… …in a time where mass death may have been less shocking Conversely, some have argued that the flu was so traumatic families formed unspoken agreements never to discuss it The memories that did endure
were intensely personal: lost parents, lost siblings, friends gone too soon, families impoverished when their breadwinners died In some cases, soldiers came back from the trenches
to find their entire family wiped out Ask your family and you might find
a story of your own Generations later the trauma still lingers Yet apart from Katherine Anne Porter’s
Pale Horse, Pale Rider, there was no explosion
of novels about flu as there were about the war. It was a more difficult subject It’s faceless enemy more challenging to portray
than the man-made terror of the trenches But Porter wasn’t the only notable person
to suffer from the flu In fact, it infected so many famous people
that it raises a chilling question: How different
would our world be if even one
of them had died? Among the ill
were President Wilson, British Prime Minister
David Lloyd George, Gandhi, Kaiser Wilhelm, and General Pershing A generation of notable artists caught it as well including T. S. Eliot and a young ambulance driver
named Walt Disney Franklin Roosevelt contracted it
while sailing on USS Leviathan Then there are the people
we did lose: the president-elect of Brazil and Austrian painters Egon Shilla and Gustav Klimt Lenin’s right-hand man succumbed, clearing the way for his replacement Josef Stalin And In New York, the flu killed
an obscure German immigrant… …allowing his son to cash in his life insurance
and expand the family’s real estate business His name was Frederick Trump You might be familiar with his grandson But the flu also drove
scientific discovery. Doctors developed new surgical techniques
and procedures for disease containment. It likely sped up the civilian
world’s adoption of ambulances. The desperate vaccines produced during the pandemic, cocktails of antibodies
from every bacterial doctor suspected… …were the predecessor of today’s combination vaccines like Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Nurses, who bore
so much of the burden, won new confidence
and respect for their profession Increasingly, their discipline became
more than serving as doctors assistants… …and the flu helped them be seen
as professionals in their own right Many cities and nations, caught off guard by the crisis, established
new health departments… …and organizations
to monitor disease It helped push the idea
of national health insurance and government provided medicine… …and it drove research By the 1930s, researchers were crafting
effective flu vaccines And many who battled flu would go on
to do great things Anna Williams nurtured
an entire generation of female researchers FDR eulogized Welch via radio And remember Oswald Avery, the guy Welch tasked
with finding Pfeiffer’s bacillus and who helped develop
the pneumonia serum? After the war, he returned
to researching bacteria, trying to discern how a bacteria
without a hard coating… …transformed into a bacteria with one After laboring for 20 years, he finally found the substance that caused the change: That’s right. Avery discovered that the purpose
of DNA is to carry genetic instructions Today, he’s considered a pioneer of modern genetics The flu also drove research
into Pfeiffer’s bacillus, which many
still believed caused flu After working in a military hospital during the war, one Scottish doctor devoted his life
to studying microbes One day, he accidentally left
a culture of it out for the night When he returned the next morning… …he found a strange mold growing on it
that killed any bacteria it touched That man was
Alexander Fleming. And the mysterious mold? It was penicillin: the first wonder drug and probably the most consequential discovery of the 20th century Even today, the 1918 flu remains a subject
of study for researchers In fact, over the last several decades,
researchers and epidemiologists have started to make breakthroughs
on the 1918 flu Helping us better
understand what happened so we can combat
the next great pandemic Researchers still don’t know
where the flu emerged There are way more theories
than we portrayed But we can now name the culprit In 1998, researchers obtained a lung sample
from a frozen grave in Alaska and confirmed what many suspected: The 1918 flu was H1N1, an avian strain… …new then but is less dangerous now that our immune systems
have had a century of exposure They’ve also begun to unravel
the pandemics mysteries For instance, we now suspect that it killed young healthy people precisely because they were young and healthy Those patients that turned blue? They probably weren’t killed
by the flu at all but by their own immune systems Once infected, victims immune systems triggered
a massive inflammatory response known as a cytokine storm But instead of neutralizing the flu, this enormous release
of disease killing cytokines… …filled lung sacks with fluid and inflamed them so much
they couldn’t absorb oxygen But the greatest lesson
of the flu pandemic is that flu can’t be ignored We don’t shrug off
new flu strains anymore In fact, many health organizations monitor both human
and animal strains… …predicting the dominant variety each season
and creating vaccine ahead of time If a new strain does arrive, we’ll be much more prepared
than doctors were in 1918 We have electron microscopes, antivirals, vaccine labs, and tested containment plans But a vaccine would still take
months to produce Meaning, we’d start by using the same measures
they did a century ago: voluntary quarantine banning public gatherings staggering work hours In fact, as Rob researched these episodes the city where he lives, Hong Kong… …closed schools to prevent
a seasonal flu outbreak and killed birds that tested positive
for avian influenza A century later, the battle against the 1918 flu
and its offspring continues So seriously, GET YOUR FLU SHOT! From an actual medical professional
and not a animated cat [Ending music]

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  • Reply Extra Credits August 8, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    The flu was over, at last. It caused so much devastation and destruction, and also inspired a lot of technological and scientific progress. If a new strain does arise, we are much more prepared than the doctors of 1918.

  • Reply Suborna Akter March 17, 2019 at 11:19 am

    real estimates 9790000000

  • Reply Lennydotdotdot March 17, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I always get the flu before I have a chance to get the flu shot…

  • Reply blackearl7891 March 19, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    They taught this at school but it was only a one sentence mention of how there was an epidemic, and many people died. They never went that deep into how much of a pandemic it was. This was an extremely fun, and entertaining series.

  • Reply MichaelAliensBiehn March 22, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks, the videos were very interesting!

  • Reply Maulik Patel March 22, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    what about CHINA…

  • Reply John Rhett Laureles March 24, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Dont let the famous people die but let Kaiser Wilhelm II die.

    I hate because you fire bismark like his nothing to germans even im a Filipino.

  • Reply John Rhett Laureles March 24, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Is Yakov Sverdlov called Trotsky.

    I hate you pluege because you make the communist party more evil as does high class drug protectors.

  • Reply Zechariah Ong March 24, 2019 at 9:14 am

    am i the only one that noticed Switzerland was still green lol?

  • Reply Mystery’s with History March 24, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    My brother has the H1N1 flu but he’s okay now, he’s doing a lot better

  • Reply ben s March 26, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    So for context on how many people it killed. In 1917, there was approximately 1.9 billion people on earth. So according to the high estimate, it killed about… 5% of the entire human race. Holy shit that is scary.

  • Reply Barry Scott March 27, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    5:22 That man would kill himself if he found out was his grandson was to do to the world…

  • Reply Adrian Zamora March 28, 2019 at 12:12 am

    100 years earlier

  • Reply mchangalot March 28, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    My great grandfather got it and died early, leaving behind a young family.

  • Reply German Shepherd March 30, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    The flu indirectly created trump

  • Reply Asbestos Fish April 2, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    I hope, with all I can, there is a time when plagues are forgotten no more.

  • Reply Orius25 April 3, 2019 at 12:09 am

    It was actually Rosalind Franklin who discovered DNA. Avery broke into her lab, stole her notes, and took credit for the discovery. It's unfortunate that this video didn't mention that.

    As for "go out and get your flu shot"… the FDA released a report based on infection levels in hospital staff in 2018, revealing that the annual flu vaccine is only 40% effective. It also lowers the immune systems of whoever gets the vaccine, rendering them susceptible to secondary infections… just like live flu does.

  • Reply Brandon1629ESUHSD April 5, 2019 at 12:41 am


  • Reply Mary Kate Trausch April 6, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    My great-grandma’s brother died from the flu. My grandma told me some of the things her mother told her about him (he liked to draw) and I have a carved picture of a horse he made with his signature carved on the back.

  • Reply USERZ123 April 6, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    anti vaxxxer will be the next group that spread a pandemic.

  • Reply Red Blaze April 9, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Bring out your dead!

  • Reply Cheng Yiq April 11, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Wait…. so Spanish Flu is H1N1 ?????

    I had H1N1 years ago, so does that means I had Spanish Flu????

  • Reply Noel Nol Null April 13, 2019 at 2:33 am

    When you said Anna William, I thought of the character from my favorite fighting game Tekken.

  • Reply Gamerf 123456 April 15, 2019 at 8:44 am

    How did us British fight in the war if a quarter of our people dead and our total people 880000

  • Reply Lucas Wallace April 15, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    Ahem….. I can feel who are you talking about.

  • Reply Emperor Galaxian April 21, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    The 1918 Flu Pandemic,was a specter that though it's killing was brief,it still is with us. It never left alone,and never will. This phantom of death is still around,and,with the new wave of ignorance,this defeated phantom,will come back,and much,much stronger,deadlier,and catastrophic.

  • Reply rockergod789 April 22, 2019 at 12:59 am

    My great-great-great grampa got the Spanish flu, and survived. His brother wasn't so lucky, though.

  • Reply Adam Ethridge April 23, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Anti Vaxers are bringing the pandemic back

  • Reply Adam Ethridge April 23, 2019 at 9:05 am

    I love Stalin’s smile in the animation

  • Reply Aqua 458 April 23, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    My grandfather didn't even know that the pandemic existed

  • Reply ChillioPhillio April 25, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    This is one of my favorite history lessons ever. Thanks for your wonderful channel.

  • Reply James 22 April 29, 2019 at 1:07 am

    Lest we forget

  • Reply Rebecca Sun May 1, 2019 at 7:39 am

    i'm from HK

  • Reply Noah Paoletti May 2, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    That code, didn’t have anything to do with DNA

  • Reply howard baxter May 3, 2019 at 7:25 am

    I know Sabaton only writes songs on War, but let’s all email them about writing a song about the Spanish Flu.

  • Reply Jeffrey Berry May 3, 2019 at 8:30 am

    This series was incredible! Thank you so much for making this!

  • Reply Sean Peacock May 11, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Grandfather Nurgle is still out there waiting for us to drop pour guard.

  • Reply Oof Kid May 12, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    So 2019 has Misels or something like that

  • Reply Gareth Thompson May 17, 2019 at 3:09 am

    Did anyone else pause to read the DNA code?

  • Reply Liostutch May 20, 2019 at 12:59 am

    What if the animated cat IS a medical professional?

  • Reply Bilgee Carlos May 20, 2019 at 8:51 am

    In conclusion:
    The Spanish flu has infected some of the world famous
    Coincidently and Weirdly

  • Reply Leon HUANG May 25, 2019 at 2:57 pm


    I live in Hong Kong….

    And yes… my school was closed…


  • Reply Matthias Konold May 30, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    194 karen disliked the vidéo

  • Reply Bryan Xiong June 2, 2019 at 4:53 am

    "That man was Alexander Fleming, and the mysterious mold? That was Penicillin" I love that part.

  • Reply Dinara Shukayeva June 2, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    The flu shot never works on my family and extended family. It gives us the flu and we never get it when we don’t get shots

  • Reply Polar Vortex June 8, 2019 at 3:19 am

    If WW1 was the birth of modern war, the Spanish Flu was the birth of modern medicine if not biology if not society.

  • Reply lena oxton June 10, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Me: why do i hear boss music

  • Reply Sofi Carrar June 16, 2019 at 1:45 am


  • Reply CMD 3 June 17, 2019 at 6:27 am

    As someone who can't get vaccinated because of my immune system being shit, I cannot stress the final line of this video enough. GET YOUR FREAKING FLU SHOTS PEOPLE!

  • Reply ATMOSK1234 June 22, 2019 at 1:00 am

    That opening just gave me so many questions about why the carnival parade in Rio was so morbid

  • Reply Richie Ear June 22, 2019 at 5:16 am

    //time is a flat circle and we must all die eventually;

    I love that you guys took the time to easily put that together!

  • Reply Dallas Jensen June 23, 2019 at 8:44 am

    9:40 not pointy finger the musical

  • Reply Ryan Sears June 30, 2019 at 12:37 am

    5:05 if only we could have killed a different Austrian painter

  • Reply Hannah Shin June 30, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    If Walt Disney died during the epidemic my childhood would be trash

  • Reply Laura Elizabeth July 1, 2019 at 6:01 am

    All your series like history and mythology and sci fi should be separate channels to follow

  • Reply Zuper Zet July 9, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    The push for national health insurance made by the flu probably was not so good cause of how expensive American healthcare is now cause of how insurance companies wanted huge discounts

  • Reply Roy D. Lao July 23, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    "and a young ambulance driver named Walt Disney."

    𝑭𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒔 𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒊𝒓

  • Reply The Half Brit July 28, 2019 at 9:13 am

    * laughs in American *

  • Reply Deez_Newts July 28, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    "Seriously, get your flu shot"
    Karen: "Your not the boss of me!"
    Little Timmy: "Mommy, I don't feel so good"
    Karen: "Have you been taking your lavender oil"
    Little Timmy: "Ya, but can I get vaccinate-"

  • Reply Kelly Day July 31, 2019 at 5:49 pm


    Immune system-Oh Sh*t! Flu! Starts vomiting

    Flu-Thanks for doing my job….

  • Reply - Defianc3 August 6, 2019 at 12:02 am

    4:55 “And a young ambulance driver, named Walt Disney”

    falls out of chair.

  • Reply Minh Đức Triệu August 8, 2019 at 9:27 am

    And look what anti-vaxers are doing?

  • Reply SPESS August 8, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    I don’t have any really good stories to tell

    Except that I’m related to admiral Yi and two royal families but that doesn’t matter

  • Reply jegi 37 August 8, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    In switzerland is a monument for all men wich died from the flue while they did their military service

  • Reply Delta 2349 August 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    If flu was H1N1,
    I HAD FLU!

  • Reply Javier g August 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    This was real life plague Inc on the hardest mode.

  • Reply Javier g August 9, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    What if like in day of the dead bloodline the h1n1 strain turned the infected into zombies

  • Reply Iron_Armored August 10, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Too bad anti vax now exists

  • Reply Saxel Adude August 11, 2019 at 9:32 am

    speaking of top discoveries of the century I think it would be interesting to hear an episode about those through out the cetueries and how they affected and civilization at the time

  • Reply Bean B August 11, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    I guess I'll start getting flu shots again

  • Reply Brick Flash August 13, 2019 at 12:55 am

    Youtube needs a button to show sympathy.

  • Reply Lag_CTRL_Gaming August 15, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    Me: Hey anti vax mom, look at this one:
    Anti vax mom: What?
    Me: Measles
    Anti vax mom: I don't get it
    Me: Are you sure?

  • Reply dbadm88 August 19, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Watching this video is bringing back memories a few years ago I was in school we have a special class for disabled students people with with brain defects a year or 2 ago one of them caught the flu (might have been pneumonia I forgot) and he died by a weak immune system
    as you might expect it was quite sad what’s even worse is that he was 6 or 7 years old our school bought a special bench in memory of him and on that day we held our American flag halfway down the pole.

  • Reply AthenaMoMo *idk y we hav to do this* August 22, 2019 at 5:30 am

    If Walt died no more disney and no mickey mouse

  • Reply dafnesway August 23, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    Wait wait wait, you're telling me I've had the same disease that killed MILLIONS on the 20th century and I just had to skip school for a week and lay in bed??!?!?

  • Reply bryan adkins August 24, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Spanish Flu was basically the virus version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

  • Reply Hahonryuu August 25, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    So in a weird way, the flu gave us Stalin? Holy shit. I don't think there's a guarantee that things would have been better with the other guy but geez.

  • Reply Raibaru Fumetsu September 1, 2019 at 2:51 am

    John Snow: Umm, this plague is spreading guys

    Military Doctors: YOU KNOW NOTHING JOHN SNOW!

  • Reply RAFFAEL JUSTIN WIDJAJA September 2, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Can you do the black plague

  • Reply Dung Bui September 5, 2019 at 1:12 am

    His name was Frederick Trump…You might be familiar with his grandson.

    Hey, 1918 flu, you missed one.

  • Reply AWEtistic September 6, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Two things that have always bothered me:
    1. How people keep on talking about the Black Death and completely forgetting or downplaying the Spanish Flu, even if was that much worse.
    2. Remember that child rhyme about the little bird called enza? The Spanish Flu developed from an avian strain. It is just a coincidence, but I can't get over it. Nightmare fuel.

  • Reply Mehican Taco September 12, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    How do you get all this information? Is it from internet searches, books, both or somewhere else?

  • Reply ARandomFandomFan September 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    I think the Flu Plague might have killed more than the Black Death and BD wiped out half of entire population.

  • Reply Tova ! September 15, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    9:37 Nooooo my Hamilton tickets!

  • Reply gayrus amewriter September 22, 2019 at 8:45 am

    Oh shit I haven’t had a flu shot in… 12345… 6! 6 years holy mother of- MOM!

  • Reply Joe Dellinger September 28, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    It came to Brownsville, Texas in 1920. Killed my uncle and nearly killed another two uncles.

  • Reply Khalil Winston September 30, 2019 at 10:48 am

    g r e a t j o b 🙃

  • Reply Brooke Rickettson October 5, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Most convincing promotion to get a flu shot I’ve ever heard!!

  • Reply Bthsr71 October 7, 2019 at 2:32 am

    "was H1N1"
    spits water

  • Reply Nuclear Lioness October 10, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    This is the only time I’ve actually thought, “ok, I’ll go get my flu shot.” Without someone asking me to.

  • Reply Red Blaze October 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    My great-great grandfather died of the flu in 1919. I once read an interview with his son, my great-grandfather, who was only 7 years old when he lost his father. He said: "The Spanish took him."

  • Reply CloudNova-117 October 12, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    As someone who has played plague inc. it’s actually very similar to the game. The smallest and most isolated places of the world are the most difficult to infect. Even if you start the plague in those small countries, it feels more like a “roll a 20 to win” situation

  • Reply Luboman411 October 14, 2019 at 3:58 am

    At 2:00. Ummm…we seem to be missing a rather huge country here–China. It was the most populous nation on Earth in 1919, and it was a disorganized mess. The central government in Beijing had collapsed, and the warlords had split up China and were fighting each other in a bloody civil war. You mean to tell me that not a single person died from this awful flu in China, when India (which in 1919 had maybe 50% of the population of China) had possibly 20 million people die? I really don't believe that.

  • Reply BRTD Double0Donut October 15, 2019 at 2:20 am

    0:43 "Vibe check."

  • Reply Jennifer Andersen October 18, 2019 at 6:12 am

    On my flu shot, it's my choice, and I say for the most part no. Doctor's office flu shot? Fine. But CVS or Walgreens flu shot? Pfft. Yeah the last thing I want from a pharmacy is a shot that hurts like HPV vaccines.

  • Reply Kamije Celeek November 14, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I remember that about ten years ago, H1N1 made a comeback in the area where I live. I was in fourth grade at the time and I was lucky enough not to catch it (BECAUSE I GOT MY FLU SHOT)

  • Reply Micheal Drake November 18, 2019 at 10:02 am

    I firmly believe that eventually, either something will wipe us out, or we'll neutralize every threat. In a big picture kind of way, these videos might have just told the story of the beginning of influenza's eventual extinction.

  • Reply raja thapa November 23, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Imagine this.
    You're finally coming home after your final push back to the German border in France. You arrive back, tired, cold, hungry. You can't wait to see your family!

    You get the news. They're dead. Killed by the flu.

    Spine chilling, isn't it?

  • Reply A. Ho November 27, 2019 at 2:57 am

    5:15 Happy Stalin is happy 😀

  • Reply johan afrilian November 27, 2019 at 5:22 am

    i was born in indonesia and i still live here in indonesia

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