Spanish Flu Artifact


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Spanish Flu Artifact

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The story relates to the pandemic on the different responses of how the U.S. president addressed the Spanish Flu compared to the president of Singapore.
Karina Corral
October 18, 2020

Analysis of Spanish Flu Artifact 1918

Between the years of 1917 to 1919, there was an outbreak of a mysterious, deadly flu. The outbreak occurred in 1917 unbeknownst to mankind, and the origin of the flu is still unknown, but has been named the Spanish Flu due to Spain’s explicit and early news coverage on it. The flu hit in two waves, and the wave that caused more casualties was through the fall and wintertime of the year 1918. Many countries were deeply affected by the flu, but not every country reported on it right away as it was undetected. China was one of many countries hit hard by the flu and believed to be the epicenter the 1918 Spanish Flu, but so was the U.S.; the origin is still unknown.
On November 5, 1918, the China news outlet, The Shanghai Times, printed a newspaper with an article with coverage on Singapore’s President’s statement on the impact of the Spanish Flu. By this time more than 2,500 people had died from the flu in Singapore. In his statement, the president of Singapore explicitly said that the disease was fatal, but an individual could avoid catching it or passing it along by following these tips: avoid being in confined spaces, limit outdoor activities unless absolutely necessary, self-isolate and search for treatment if experiencing symptoms, and disinfecting homes daily. In this news coverage, the flu was not censored at all. The readers of the newspaper and the citizens of Singapore were clearly told about the flu and given clear and doable guidelines to follow to slow down the spread of the deadly disease.
Looking at the newspaper, it is most noticeable that it was printed in English although it was published in China. This leads one to believe the targeted audience were English speaking citizens, tourists, or even any U.S. soldiers who may have been in China due to the ongoing negotiations and aftermath of World War I. The U.S. had passed the Sedition Act in 1918 that limited and censored what U.S. newspapers were reporting meanwhile news outlets in other countries like China and Singapore were letting their citizens know more explicitly of the disease that seemed to be killing people. In 1918, U.S. citizens were merely given suggestions and remedies on how to handle the flu. The ongoing war efforts were more important to the U.S. president than the health of the people.
The Spanish Flu that occurred in 1918 is very similar to the pandemic that is infecting and killing people now: COVID-19. The similarities between the two is that there is no vaccine, practicing social distancing and cleanliness is important, and businesses and schools have been shut down to prevent the spread of the flu. Just as how 1918 President Woodrow Wilson was suspected to have caught the Spanish Flu, today’s President, Donald Trump, was confirmed to have caught COVID-19 and recovered from it. This pandemic seems to be a repeat of history because President Trump seems to prioritize travelling in a time when staying home is important just as President Wilson made the decision to travel to France to come up with a solution to World War I. Because the tips from the president of Singapore on the Spanish flu are identical to the guidelines set in place for the 2020 pandemic, I believe that the world today will survive the pandemic just like society did after 1918 as long as we keep these safety measures in place.

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This item was submitted on October 18, 2020 by Karina Corral using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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