Friday, October 16, 2009

Flashback: Red Cross Volunteers during Flu Epidemic, 1919

Just to share a little bit about Chicago’s epidemic history…

In the nineteenth century, the city of Chicago underwent frightening epidemics of disease which also infected many American and European cities. One in specific was the influenza epidemic of 1918–19. In the span of about 30 days, 10,249 Chicagoans died of flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia and around 20,000 perished in 1918 and 1919 combined. It also caused at least 675,000 U.S. deaths and up to 50 million deaths worldwide. Back then, unfortunately no one knew what a virus was, how to stop it, or that it caused the flu.

Coinciding with this outbreak, many paid and volunteer opportunities arose as a result of World War I. One of the most popular volunteer organizations was the American Red Cross. In the photo above, Red Cross volunteers are shown attending to the domestic influenza virus by putting together the masks worn by hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans to avoid the spread of the deadly disease.

Although we have come a long way from this kind of widespread pandemic, and have advanced considerably by becoming educated on symptoms and causes, learning prevention methods, and the development of antibiotics and other medications, it still important to take care of yourself this fall. By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of others! Flu season is here, so wash your hands and cover your cough!

For more information on the pandemic flu or tips on how to prepare and prevent it, visit

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