Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

NMHM looks back at the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ for one Maryland county

Black and white image of hospital beds lined up in rows, occupied by sick people Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas. (NCP 1603) (Photo by: NMHM.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health

The year 1918 proved to be a trying time for people overseas and at home. Still in the midst of World War I, populations were then introduced to another adversary: the “Spanish Flu.” While great medical strides had been made to prevent other deadly diseases, such as smallpox, by the time of the global outbreak of influenza in 1918, the flu virus, or H1N1, had yet to be identified.

The 1918 flu resembled a more severe cold. The symptoms included fever, pains in the head and other body parts, and fatigue. While some patients recovered, others developed more severe and deadly conditions, like pneumonia or meningitis. Perhaps the greatest threat of the 1918 flu was the contagious nature of the virus with approximately one third of the world’s population infected and an estimated 50-100 million global fatalities.

During a virtual “science café” held by the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) last month, NMHM’s Historical Collections Manager Alan Hawk discussed the rapid spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic in a case study on Montgomery County, Maryland.

In 1918, Montgomery County was transitioning from a rural farming community into a suburban area. The county had recently improved its transportation systems connecting railroads and trolley lines to Washington, D.C. for those commuting to work in the city. Less than a month after the first influenza fatality in Washington, D.C., there was an estimated 1,200 cases of influenza in Montgomery County; most cases were within five miles of the railroad or trolley lines.

As we know today, the influenza virus is easily transmitted between those in close proximity to each other, up to about six feet, making the crowded trolleys and trains a prime place for spreading the flu in 1918. This was particularly damaging to the U.S. military, as traveling military personnel often shared cramped quarters in barracks, trains, and trenches.

The devastating impact of the flu in Montgomery County and the surrounding areas drove public health officials to require the adornment of gauze masks in public, and locals to cancel events with large gatherings of people.

While a vaccine wouldn’t be developed for a few more decades, military laboratories and civilian scientists worked tirelessly in 1918 to discover the agent that caused the flu. Autopsies were performed and samples of lung tissue were forwarded to the Army Medical Museum (now NMHM) for further study and preservation. 

Along with the tissue specimens, the museum collected archival and historical materials – for example, photographs showing influenza wards like Camp Funston, Kansas, a possible ground zero for the virus in America, and medical equipment – to illustrate the devastating impact of the 1918 pandemic and the military’s medical response. 

These materials aid today’s researchers in parsing history and understanding the nature of the 1918 flu in comparison to current strains or other viruses. A virtual exhibit shows how DoD scientists used a sample of lung tissue to recreate the genetic sequence of the 1918 virus, and a new teacher’s guide compares the 1918 influenza to COVID-19. Perhaps future studies can help us identify key characteristics of the 1918 influenza pandemic and why it was so deadly.

For those interested in accessing the collections for research, visit the museum’s website.

You also may be interested in...

MSMR Vol. 4 No. 6 – September 1998

Report
1/1/1998

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Morbility surveillance, field training exercise, Thailand; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, August 1998; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, August 1998; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Outbreak, rapidly-growing mycobacterial infection; ARD surveillance update; Foodborne outbreak, Salmonella gastroenteritis.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 4 No. 5 – July/August 1998

Report
1/1/1998

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Late presentations of vivax malaria of Korean origin; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, July 1998; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, July 1998; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; ARD surveillance update; Hyposmolality related to excessive water consumption; Trends in hospitalizations due to mental disorders; Supplement #1: Update: HIV-1 testing in the Army; HIV-1 testing, Active duty , 1988-1998; HIV-1 testing, Reserve , 1988-1998; HIV-1 testing, National Guard, 1988-1998; HIV-1 testing, civilian applicants for service; HIV-1 tests, summary, U.S. Army, 1997; Supplement #2: Reportable diseases; All reportable conditions, 1998; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1998 (vs. 1997); Sentinel reportable STD's, 1998 (vs. 1997); Active duty force strength (March 1998).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 4 No. 7 – October/November 1998

Report
1/1/1998

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Norwalk-like viral gastroenteritis outbreak, Fort Bliss; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, October 1998; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, October 1998; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Hospitalizations and outpatient visits, musculoskeletal disorders; ARD surveillance update; Heat-related outpatient visits, 1997-1998; Supplement #1: Reportable diseases; All reportable conditions, 1998; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1998 (vs. 1997); Sentinel reportable STD's, 1998 (vs. 1997); Active duty force strength (June 1998).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 4 No. 4 – May/June 1998

Report
1/1/1998

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Completeness and timeliness of required disease reporting; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, May 1998; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, May 1998; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Elevated blood lead, Fort Campbell; ARD surveillance update; Infant botulism, WRAMC.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 4 No. 3 – April 1998

Report
1/1/1998

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Hospitalizations and noneffective days, 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, March 1998; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, March 1998; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Leptospirosis, Tripler Army Medical Center; ARD surveillance update; Varicella outbreak at Fort Knox; Supplement #1: Hospitalization Summary, 1997; Active duty hospitalizations; Active duty hospitalization rates; Total active duty hospital sick days; Noneffective rates, active duty hospitalizations; Supplement #2: Reportable Diseases Summary, 1997; All reportable conditions, 1997; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1997 (vs. 1996); Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 1997; Sentinel reportable STDs, 1997 (vs. 1996); Force strength (December 1997).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 4 No. 1 – January 1998

Report
1/1/1998

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Fevers of unknown origin among active duty soldier; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, December 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, December 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Visceral leishmaniasis, Sigonella, Italy; ARD surveillance update; Supplement: Notifiable conditions Jan - Dec 1997; Notifiable conditions reported through MSS; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1997(vs 1996); Sentinel reportable STDs 1997(vs 1996); Heat / cold injuries; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Force strength (September 1997).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 9 – December 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Spontaneous fractures of the femur; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, November 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, November 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Injury incidence among advanced trainees, Ft. Sam Houston; ARD surveillance update; Measles, Madigan Army Medical Center; Carbon monoxide intoxication, Ft. Hood and Ft. Campbell; U.S. Army Hearing Conservation Program (HCP).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 8 – November 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Febrile acute respiratory disease; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, October 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, October 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Arthropod, lizard, and snake envenomations; ARD surveillance update; Completeness and timeliness of required disease reporting; Army reportable disease system site survey.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 2 – March 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Pneumonia among active duty soldiers 1990-1996; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Group A beta hemolytic streptococcus among trainees; Surveillance trends: Hospitalization rates, Bosnia; Bosnia update: DNBI hospitalizations; Influenza at Aberdeen Proving Ground; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 3 – April 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Editorial Comment; Hospitalizations and non-effective days, 1996; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, March 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, March 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Completeness and timeliness of required disease reporting; Bosnia update: DNBI hospitalizations; Surveillance trends: Hospitalization rates, Bosnia; ARD surveillance update; Supplement #1: Hospitalization Summary, 1996; Active duty hospitalizations; Active duty hospitalization rates; Total active duty hospital sick days; Non-effective rates, active duty hospitalizations; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1996 (vs. 1995); Supplement #2: Reportable Diseases Summary, 1996; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 1996; All reportable conditions, 1996; Force strength (December 1996).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 7 – October 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, September 1997; Varicella among active duty soldiers; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, September 1997; Typhoid fever, Tripler Army Medical Center; ARD surveillance update; Adenovirus, type 4, Ft. Jackson and Ft. Gordon; Ross River virus disease, Exercise Tandem Thrust 97; Supplement: Reportable diseases; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1997(vs 1996); Force strength (June 1997).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 1 – January 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Gastroenteritis outbreaks among military trainees; Surveillance trends: Hospitalization rates, Bosnia; Bosnia update: DNBI hospitalizations; Tetanus, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Supplement: Notifiable conditions Jan - Dec 1996; Notifiable conditions reported through MSS; Heat / Cold weather injuries; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Cold weather training guidelines; ARD surveillance update; Force strength (September 1996); Cold weather injuries in active duty soldiers.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 4 – June 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Risk factor analysis (part I), hospitalizations, OJE; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, May 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, May 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Brown recluse spider bites among infantry trainees; STD trends, risk correlates and recurrences; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 5 – July/August 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Plasmodium vivax malaria of Korean origin, 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, June 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, June 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; E.coli O:157:H7, Fort Lewis; Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Fort Lewis; Shigella sonnei, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; ARD surveillance update; HIV-2, Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Supplement #1 : HIV-1 in the Army; HIV-1 testing program, 1985-1996; Status of HIV-1 infected patients; Prevalence of HIV-1, civilian applicants; Supplement #2: Reportable Diseases; Sentinel reportable diseases, 1st quarter 1997 (vs 1996); Sentinel reportable STDs, 1997 (vs 1996); Force strength (March 1997).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 3 No. 6 – September 1997

Report
1/1/1997

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Hyponatremia secondary to overhydration; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, August 1997; Selected sentinel reportable diseases, 2 year trends; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, August 1997; Reportable sexually transmitted diseases, 2 year trends; Hyponatremia outbreak investigation; ARD surveillance update; Risk factor analysis (part II), hospitalizations, OJE; Heat injuries in active duty soldiers; Heat injuries, 1990-1996.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health
<< < ... 56 57 58 > >> 
Showing results 826 - 840 Page 56 of 58

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.