Military causes of the Spanish Influenza during the World War I Essay
Military causes of the Spanish Influenza during the World War I, 487 words essay example
Essay Topic: spanish, war, influenza, military
The military strategies and decisions of the United States Military made the Spanish Influenza a disastrous and widespread epidemic from 1918 to 1919, which infected approximately one-third of the world's population (around 500 million people) and killed around 40 million. The 1918 Influenza sickened about 26% of the Army, and up to 40% of the Navy. In comparison, World War I only claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The flu killed more than the war itself. There were three waves of Spanish flu, which occurred in 1918 spring, 1918 fall, and 1919 spring. The first and third ones were relatively mild, but the second one was far more severe, causing 90% of death in the three waves and taking away lives within hours or a few days. However, it was not a coincidence for the epidemic and the war to happen simultaneously. Firstly, the war situation created a suitable environment for the epidemic to spread in terms of overcrowding condition, rapid and continuous recruitments and movements of the troops. The pandemic virus, H1N1 virus, mostly targeted and killed healthy young adults, who made up 50% of total death. Rapid recruitments provided endless new targets for the virus, and the mobilization leads to wider and quicker spread between camps and troops. Secondly, army medical decisions also contributed to the disastrous influenza. Medical professions had no idea about virology back then but were overconfident about the situation because of the previous victory of conquering disease. They were not capable of identifying the disease because it was striking so quickly and viciously, which was responsible for the failure to control and treat the disease. The lack of medical workers, medicine and medical facilities in the military worsened the situation. Thirdly, when medical and military decisions conflicted with each other, medical decisions were sacrificed. And some commonly used medical strategies, such as quarantine, were proved impractical during a war. The warfare made it harder for medical workers to control the spread and infection. The war and the decisions during wartime made the flu more severe and widespread and provided a suitable environment for the virus to cause severe casualties.
Characteristics of war itself assisted the virus. One of the features of all the wars is the concentration of a large amount of people in a limited space, which speeded up and made it easier for influenza to spread. World War I gathered "over 25 percent of the entire male population of the country between the ages of 18 and 31" into troops and training camps, with more than four million people serving in the United States Army and the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F). The Selective Service Act boosted the prewar soldiers 18.5 times. Nevertheless, space was limited and overcrowding occurred from time to time. For example, in 1918, American Army assigned less space than the regulation requested on the troop ships in order to speed up A.E.F.'s deployment, which also increased crowding and speeded up the spread of influenza. In Camp Devens, which