Spanish flu was not Spanish

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)

7 thoughts on “Spanish flu was not Spanish”

  1. To all,

    Raise your hand if you spoke to anyone today who thought that avoiding pork was an effective measure against swine flu.

  2. Didn’t but I did witness the news of Ito Yokado making a statement that their pork was safe. Is not eating foreign meat the answer to all of Japan’s problems?

  3. Japan has FTA with Mexico and pork happens to be the key product of import.
    And notice the recent bird flu in Toyohashi had cleared out all the “Japanese quail” products from supermarkets.

  4. It was also called “swine flu” in ’18-19, and we know now that swine had nothing to do with it.

    Still, it gave me a great hook for my globalization/environmentalism lecture today!

  5. The spanish called it the “”French Flu” continuing on with that noble tradition of blaming major diseases on other countries.

    For example syphilis has been called ” the”French disease” in Italy and Germany, and the “Italian disease” in France. In addition, the Dutch called it the “Spanish disease”, the Russians called it the “Polish disease”, the Turks called it the “Christian disease” or “Frank disease” (frengi) and the Tahitians called it the “British disease”.

  6. The Europeans brought syphilis to America as well. What do you think the natives called it? “The European disease” was probably reserved for the far more deadly smallpox…

  7. My first visit here, found the blog accidentally really, and I just wanted to say I’ve enjoyed my visit and had some good reads while here 🙂

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