Family HIstory

The Spanish Flu and Our Family

  • March 20, 2020

By Anne Chavez

Dear Family,

We’re all wondering how long this flu crisis is going to last so I did a wee bit of research. I’m including Susan Kaye and Jimmy in this email because I suspect they’re doing some research of their own. Please correct me if any of my details are inaccurate and/or fuzzy.

The Spanish flu of 1918 was from the H1N1 group. There were three (3) waves that hit the world.

First Wave:

1st case reported in the USA was March 11, 1918 in Fort Riley, Kansas. After 5 weeks, 1127 were infected and 46 died.

American troops brought the flu to Europe to fight in WWI. The flu hit France 1st. When it got to Spain, the Spanish reported their flu cases to their country and the world. At that point is was named the “Spanish Flu.” Evidently neither America nor the French governments wanted to report the illness. At that point it went around the world. By the end of July, 1918, the 1st wave started to die out

Second Wave:

The 2nd wave was both extremely contagious and deadly. In August, 1918, port cities of the world were struck. Hospitals were swamped. Within hours of contracting the flu, victims suffered fatigue, fever and headaches. Victims turned blue. Some were so blue that you couldn’t tell their original color. The flu struck so suddenly and was so severe, victims died within one to two days. There were piles of dead bodies and not enough coffins.

Third Wave:

Armistice ending WWI was Nov 11, 1918. Returning soldiers started the 3rd wave. Some say it ended in the Spring of 1919.

Family Information:

Grampa Babij did not get the flu.

01 Nov 1918, Washington, DC, USA — A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C., November 1, 1918. — Image by © CORBIS

Gramma Babij did get this flu. She’d just given birth to Uncle Pete. She told me that she was in a hospital for a short time and when she looked out the window, there were people on cots stretched out as far as the eye could see.

I think that what we can learn from the last pandemic is how this virus will have the opportunity to “re-infect” victims. Although we have the advantage of better medicine and treatment, I think we’re in for a long haul on this.

Another note: Estelle is in lockdown where she lives. I speak with her twice a day. Jesse and I drop off things she needs. We do a “drive-by” and a staff member takes it in the building. She’s holding well. We had a minor scare when she started with the “sniffles” but it turned out to be just her sinus condition. Whew.

Love to all of you,


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