The 1918-19 influenza epidemic killed more than 50 million people, and infected between one fifth and half of the world’s population. It is the world’s greatest killing influenza pandemic, and is used as a worst case scenario for emerging infectious disease epidemics like the corona virus COVID-19. It decimated families, silenced cities and towns as it passed through, stilled commerce, closed schools and public buildings and put normal life on hold. Sometimes it killed several members of the same family. Like COVID-19 there was no preventative vaccine for the virus, and many died from secondary bacterial pneumonia in this pre-antibiotic era. In this work, Ida Milne tells how it impacted on Ireland, during a time of war and revolution. But the stories she tells of the harrowing impact on families, and of medicine’s desperate search to heal the ill, could apply to any other place in the world at the time.
Dublin Festival of History 2020 Event – Wednesday 23rd September 7pm. Watch INFLUENZA, WAR AND REVOLUTION IN IRELAND 1918–19 – Ida Milne in conversation with Sarah-Anne Buckley. Booking required HERE.