“Spanish Influenza” -- One Man's Experience - 1918

SPANISH influenza! Why blame the land of the lazy Don for it?” says one man who is well known in Camp.

“It is an old friend of mine. I just recovered from it; in fact, was one of the first to keel over with it in this epidemic, but this is not the first time I had it—only the third time. But both other experiences were in London, England. Call it English influenza, as it is better known there than anywhere else.

In January of the year 1904 I landed at the Great Northern Station from Liverpool—we had crossed on the Celtic—and hit a genuine London winter season. Fog, black with a mixture of soft-coal smoke; rainy one day, foggy the next and cold the following. Gradually I began to feel "rotten" My back ached, I had a sore throat and was without any initiative. I simply could not pull myself together.

Finally, one day I thought it best to go to my diggings. Shortly after arriving home, I, a big, strapping healthy youth in my middle twenties, fainted. When the doctor arrived, he said my temperature was 103̊ and that I had the ‘flu" ‘That is what we call grippe in Yankeedom,’ I said. ‘No" said the medico, ‘it is a different germ, and we are just beginning to understand it as such/ They kept me in bed a week and I was glad to stick around the house for another week.

“Eight years later I was again in London. It was summertime. Such a summer! Cold in the morning, hot and muggy around noon and rain before night in one day. The thermometer gyrated from 50 degrees to nearly 80 in twenty-four hours. Then I got the ‘flu’ again.

This time it was worse than before. It left me with an optic neuritis, which means the phlegm reached up into the cavity through which the optic nerve passes and squeezed that tiny but essential line of communication from the eye to the brain. Today I see but dimly with the right eye. It also raised old Ned with a tonsil. That must come out some fine day—a gory operation to look forward to. And, for almost a year I fought malaria, which followed as a sequence.

“So, when a few weeks agro I felt that old familiar feeling, I hiked myself to bed just as fast as I could get there. I had the doctor sent for in advance of my arrival home. This time I beat the germ to it. I got after him so hard that he had no time to get his fangs into me in a serious way.

Had I continued to bluff it out I might have lost the other eye and tonsil and maybe lost everything in a casket. From much experience, I say go to bed the moment you feel feverish and stupid; the very minute that throat begins to feel sore—don’t wait for the enemy to get a strangle hold. Your lungs may be weak, and you don’t know it—pneumonia is a favorite jump for the ‘flu.’

“No, I am no weakling. I have been to bed with no other disease in my adult life. Outside of a bad eye and a bum tonsil, the leftovers of ‘flu,’ I am physically perfect. They tell me my arteries are those of a youth of twenty (and I am twice that); I have been exposed to smallpox, diphtheria and all kinds of ‘catching’ diseases, but never was touched by any of them.

I have drunk water that put almost everyone else down with dysentery or typhoid, but I escaped. Evidently my Opsonic Index, as Dr. Osier says, is very low when it comes to the ‘flu.' Again, I say, beat the devilish germ to it by going to bed at once. You need every ounce of strength to fight him, and that strength used when you keep going around provides a more devitalized system for him to feed on.

“Look out for a relapse. The disease may be seemingly ousted in a short time, but it is lasting—a convalescent from the ‘flu’ remains weak for many a day, and if you backslide into it—well, make your will if you wish to avoid a family dispute about your old watch chains and such like.”

“Spanish Influenza,” in Camp Dix Pictorial Review, Vol. I, No. 10, 20 October 1918, p. 7


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