AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Influenza 1918

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Influenza 1918

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 9:00pm

Credit: American Red Cross

Before it was over, the worst epidemic the United States has ever known would kill more than 500,000 Americans — more than all the combat deaths of the 20th century combined.

In March 1918, the disease began infecting soldiers at a rapid pace. By September, it had spread to the civilian population, moving swiftly down the eastern seaboard to New York, Philadelphia and beyond. People could be healthy in the morning and dead by nightfall. Others died more slowly, suffocating from the buildup of liquid in their lungs.

With medical science powerless, many people turned to folk remedies: garlic, camphor balls, kerosene on sugar, boneset tea. Public health officials distributed masks, closed schools, even forbade spitting on the streets.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Influenza 1918 airs Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

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