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As swine flu hits - look back 100 years

May 2, 2009 3:37 PM

PigsThe media today is full of the H1N1 virus and its potential to inflict death on a global scale. However almost exactly 100 years ago an influenza pandemic did actually break out and carried off millions around the world. One report later estimated that nearly half the world's then population (around a billion people) were affected in some way.

This is of most interest to the readers of this website because one of the victims of the flu was David Lloyd George. The Liberal prime minister was in Paris for the Peace Conference which followed the Allied victory in the Great War. Even the well protected leaders of the victorious powers were not immune from the dreadful disease stalking the world's population. Lloyd George and French prime minster, George Clemenceau, "The Tiger" were both recorded as suffering from mild cases of influenza. Lloyd George was confined to bed for ten days. He survived, of course, but many of his fellow countrymen and women were not so lucky; it is calculated that around 150,000 Britons died of the disease in 1918-19.

Frances Stevenson was also struck down at the same time although there are conflicting accounts of the cause, either the flu or a kidney inflammation.

At the time of writing there have been only a few cases of swine flu in the UK and, happily, no deaths. That may change but contrast the scene today with the media hype and the querying of the government's pandemic preparedness plans with the real misery and destruction caused in 1918-1919.

You can read an interesting journalistic review of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic by Tom Hamilton in today's edition of the Scottish Daily Record at the following link: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/health-news/2009/05/02/100-years-on-as-h1n1-fear-grips-the-planet-we-look-at-the-killer-spanish-flu-pandemic-which-hit-half-the-planet-86908-21326281/