With the swine flu suddenly in the news, some might wonder why the authorities are so frantic to stop the disease in its tracks. For context, it might be worthwhile to mention the modern world’s worst disease outbreak, the deadly Spanish flu of 1918 that killed tens of millions.
But ironically, the “Spanish flu” almost certainly did not originate in Spain.
The only reason it acquired the name was because of Spain’s neutral position during World War I. Other countries at war instituted press restrictions, and the decision was taken not to report widely about the flu epidemic out of fear it would hurt morale. Since Spain had no such restrictions it was the only country in Europe reporting an outbreak, hence fooling observers into thinking that’s where the flu had come from.
(Source: Read in yesterday’s Yomiuri)