1918 influenza pandemic
Influenza germs spread through the air when someone coughs. (Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
In 1918, a virus spread across the planet -- unstoppable, incurable. In Baltimore, the impact was shocking. And as World War I was coming to an end, a new battle was shaping up in homes, schools and neighborhoods. By the end of October the virus had claimed more than 3,000 Baltimoreans. By spring it had killed an estimated 50 million people -- 650,000 of them Americans. Nearly a century later, the people who lived through it and the victims' families still recall their experiences with the flu.
During the late summer of 1918, Americans were gripped by news from the European front as World War I neared its end. They didn't dream that a larger, more deadly battle would soon be fought on U.S. soil.
Sick himself with influenza, one of Baltimore's most prominent doctors wrote a letter to the family of one of Baltimore's most promising researchers, fatally stricken as he tried to combat the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Emily Raine Williams, who was born in Baltimore in the late 1870s, graduated from St. Mary's School of Nursing and became superindendent of nurses at the Fort McHenry Hospital during World War I. During the influenza pandemic, Williams wrote the following in her memoirs:
The following is an excerpt from the 1982 book, "A Century of Caring." Sister Mary Cecelia O'Sullivan wrote this passage, according to Caroline Hook, Account Executive for Bonnie Heneson Communications, the PR agency of the Sisters of Bon Secours:
October 20, 2006
SOURCES: Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this compilation. Its sources include the Baltimore Health Department; The World Almanac, 1919; The Sun; The Evening Sun; The (Baltimore) Afro-American; The Washington Post; PBS.org; Twoop.com Medical Timelines and the World Health Organization.
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