1918 L'Influenza Spagnola La Pandemia che cambiò il Mondo by Laura Spinney published by Marsilio Nodi in english Pale Rider attracted me a lot because of an anecdote told me once by my dad, born in 1926 while we were watching on TV a program about the Spanish Influenza of 1918.
"It was tremendous. At that time we were more than 600 people in the area. An entire family was killed by this flu. They died in 1919. Everyday people celebrated a funeral for and of one of the member of that family. Five people in total, of all that family just an adult child survived."
Strong of that fact, and because I am a pretty alarmistic person I read this book with great interest.
The Spanish flu arrived in the world with fury and death 100 years ago and although scientists are not still sure where it was born it took the name of Spanish Flu. I consider the author's dissertation about names given at various illness enchanting.
There is a known fact: that a man from Kansas fell sick at a certain point. That one is still considered the Patient Number Zero.
100 years ago world was completely different (and similar) at this one and trying to understand the devastation caused by this pandemic flu took a lot of years because in that sense the only way of communication with the world were ships, the ones that would have disseminated in the entire world that horrible virus, because infected.
This pandemia caused in total 100 million dead in just a year.
Its virulence was situated into the lungs with heavy hemorrhages. People died pretty quickly.
Many anecdotes from the world, I would want to fly with you in New Yprk City because this story involves our immigrants in the States.
Mainly peasants, escaped from a reality of great poverty in their native land, 4 million and more lived in places called Little Italy.
These poor people not acculturated and in search of fortune were like suffocated in a city like New York and pretty soon they lost their strength.
They lived in poor places without any kind of comfort.
Possibility of starting to fall sick a condition more superior than the one of people living in beauty houses.
Italians believed that doctors were not friendly at all and they preferred to cure themselves with other alternative methods.
Mr Copeland an homeopathic doctor and the responsible of this pandemic flu for NYC understood that it was crucial not only to "domesticate" this big italian community, but also to try to let understand to Italians the importance of proper cures.
School during the pandemic flu were not closed in New York City. Children spent best days at school nurtured and treated well, in warm and protected places than not in that poor houses without any comforts and with the possibility of becoming real great, powerful vehicles for that terrible illness. New houses were built with more modernity.
Some places for trying to stop the arrival of this flu celebrated strange pagan rituals, choosing an improbable couple and then as location for the wedding...A cemetery.
Australia tried its best for avoiding flu, as you will read, while Odessa lived the arrival of a wonderful actress, maybe a spy as well. An intriguing story.
Problems given by this pandemic influenza were devastating also in trenches, and wherever you were looking at, from China to Western Countries.
Some countries were more "intellectually and medically" ready for it than not other ones.
The advent of viruses as we will see was still germinal and most people thought that this influenza was weird, scaring and caused by a bacteria.
Plus hygienical situations, conditions, and behaviors were still becoming part of the medicine's ABC, while some countries didn't imagine that the importance of a good hygienic behavior could make the difference.
In this situation the pandemic influenza was a big chaos also with hospitals sometimes created here and there for people still sick, while dead people were amassed along the streets waiting to be buried.
There is the touching story of a man with a son dead in their house and the impossibility of finding a little coffin for burying him per days.
It was a real and scary emergence this one, although this big problem hasn't never been greatly studied at school, or no one talked of it a lot. The four years that goes from 1914 and 1918 are remembered mainly because of the First Mondial War. An important event, but this pandemic flu killed 100 million of people so more than the first, and second world war put together, explains the author. It says a lot.
The book later will also take in consideration the role of viruses and their mutations, the importance of pigs, and domestic animals for developing new kind of aggressive flu describing the virus of the Spanish Influenza in detail and where and how they searched for that one for analyzing it.
At first the book starts with a history of flu and when it was discovered the first case of flu in the remote past.
We all know admits the author that maybe another pandemic influenza is possible. Sure we don't know yet when and what we can do for avoid any possible disaster and possibly to save as many people as possible.
The cover says all of this illness: a family the one of Egon Schiele wouldn't never known the baby his wife was waiting, this couple both died of Spanish Flu, but before to donate his life to death Schiele decided of fixing on the canvas his family, baby included.
I suggest you this book because it is not just a readable book but it is plenty of stories, common ones of normal people, mixed at the history of the various nations. All the world taken in consideration.
I thank Marsilio for the physical copy of this book.
Anna Maria Polidori