Cleveland's Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

- George Santayana, 1905 

 Though there have pandemics in recent past, most have had little effect in the United States. The last one to have had a major impact as far as Cleveland is concerned was the influenza of 1918-1919, also known as the Spanish Flu, carried back from Europe by the Doughboy's of World War I. The nations fighting feared the effect on morale and censured any reporting of the disease. The year prior the Russian people revolted against their government, greatly due to the hardships brought on by the war forcing the Tsar to abdicate and form a new government and sign a separate peace. Since Spain was neutral during the war, reporters were allowed to cover the disease's impact there. 

 Here's are a few references I found. 

- American troop deaths from combat: 53,402. American troop deaths from influenza: 45,000. 

- In Cleveland between late September and the end of 1918, 23,644 fell ill from the disease, with 1,600 developing pneumonia. 

- In Cleveland 3,600 died of influenza or pneumonia that autumn. 

- An additional 800 deaths occurred in January and February of 1919. 

- Over those five months, 3.5% of the city's population (26,236) came down with the influenza or pneumonia, and of those 16% passed away (1 in 6). 

- The result in Cleveland was a total excess death rate of 474 per 100,000. The highest rate in Ohio, and worse than either New York City or Chicago. 

- Cleveland's population in 1910 was 560,663. By 1920 it was 796,841, fifth largest city in the United States. 

- With a population of roughly 749,605 in 1918, total Cleveland deaths over the five month period was around 4,400 people or 0.6%. 

- Today Cleveland's population is roughly 383,793. So 0.6% of the current population would represent 2,303 people. 

- In the United States an estimate 25 million fell ill and close to 600,000 died. 

- It's been said one fifth to a quarter of the world was infected and numbers between  17.4 and 50 million died. 

- By comparison World War I claimed a total 20 million lives.

- World population in 1918 was around 1.8 billion. Today population is close to 8 billion. 

William McCulloch

Amateur local historian

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Volume 12, Issue 4, Posted 4:35 PM, 04.01.2020