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Posted on October 25, 2019 at 4:48 PM by Jamesan Stuckey
It’s scary to imagine, but around 100 years ago, the world experienced one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. The Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 H1N1 flu, killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, with 670,000 of those deaths being American. The amount exceeded the military deaths from WWI and WWII combined.
So, did the flu ever impact Thomaston? Well, it’s difficult to say. The U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Resources states that most victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic died of bacterial pneumonia rather than the flu itself.
News of the Spanish Flu was widely downplayed as a result of President Woodrow Wilson’s Sedition Act. According to the Smithsonian, Wilson urged Congress to pass this act which would make it punishable by up to 20 years in prison to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States...or to urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of anything or things...necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war.” This meant that public health officials would conceal outbreaks of the flu, or state that service men passed away from old-fashioned flu or grip. The Spanish Flu was worse than previous strains of influenza as it would rapidly attack the lungs and cause bacterial pneumonia. “The 1918 pandemic virus infected cells in the upper respiratory tract, transmitting easily, but also deep in the lungs, damaging tissue and often leading to viral as well as bacterial pneumonias.”
Most of Upson’s reported WWI fatalities attribute pneumonia as their cause of death, including Joe Pete Thurston and Lucious Worthy, the first Caucasian and African American casualties of the war.
This article from the Thomaston Times, October 25, 1918, was the only local mention of a WWI fatality that actually named Spanish Flu as the cause.
What do you think? Could the Upson fatalities attributed to pneumonia actually be victims of this pandemic?
Thomaston Times, October 25, 1918
Thomaston Times, November 01, 1918