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Spanish flu

Why 'Spanish Flu' got its name

As the world attempts to get to grips with the spread of coronavirus, the background to other deadly diseases has raised a number of questions.

Why 'Spanish Flu' got its name

Over the past few months, as the world has been consumed by the spread of Covid-19, thoughts have turned to previous pandemics that had a major impact on humanity. One of those was Spanish Flu, and many people have been asking about why it was given that name.

The background to Spanish Flu

Killing more humans than World War 1, the influenza virus H1N1 goes down as one of the deadliest occurrences in history. From January 1918 right the way through till December 1920, it infected around 500 million people and killed anywhere between 17 million (conservative) and 100 million.

Although we cannot be one hundred per cent certain of where the first case arose, we do know that it was not in Spain. In fact, the Iberian country did not suffer too badly, relative to others.

The strong belief is that it all began in the United States, with the early cases in military forts there. The disease then rapidly spread across to Europe and caught the name ‘Spanish Flu’, although this was due to differences in media reporting.

As Spain was a neutral country at the time, news of infections and deaths were communicated freely, giving a sense that this is where the worst of it was. In reality, countries such as France, Germany, Britain, and of course the USA had censored reports on their situations, making it appear not to be as gruesomely bad is it was.

And you thought misinformation was a new thing…