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Oklahoma’s flu pandemic of 1918 compared to today

This year’s flu outbreak has been a big topic for weeks now.

Though, the reality is, this year’s virus is pretty tame compared to the worst outbreak our country has ever seen.

Back in 1918,  the Spanish Flu killed more than 50 million people worldwide.

The Spanish Flu killed more than 7,000 Oklahomans and millions more around the world.

Historians said you can walk through almost any cemetery and find family graves where an entire family was killed because of the pandemic.

Michael Dean, with the Oklahoma History Center, said, “The flu is indiscriminate, whether people were rich or prominent or poor or of minorities.”

The first case of the Spanish Flu came to Oklahoma on Sept. 28, 1918.

Dean said, “It was a young girl named Kareen Smith. The next day over 20 nurses at Saint Anthony Hospital came down with the flu. Within a week, over 1,000 people in Oklahoma City had the flu.”

It spread like wildfire.

The state’s commissioner of health issued a statewide quarantine two weeks after that first case was discovered.

Dean said, “He closed every public building by state order. Schools, churches, any kind of building where people would gather (was closed) because they at least knew the virus was spreading from person to person.”

There was no cure and many health officials did not know how to treat the virus.

Thousands died from the Spanish Flu or another infection spawned by the virus.

Dean said, “They didn’t know what caused it. They didn’t know how to treat it. There were no medications you could take for that.”

While it officially lasted through April of 1919, historians say the number of cases was highest in Oct. and Nov. of 1918.

Labeled a pandemic, it was a flu like no other.

In comparison, health officials said this year’s flu virus, while in some cases deadly, is nowhere near the pandemic level.

Dr. Kristy Bradley, with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said, “This is really not that unusual from what we’ve seen in past years.”

The “Swine Flu,” back in 2009, was another large and deadly flu outbreak.

While still small in comparison to the Spanish Flu, it is likely the most dangerous flu virus many of us alive today have ever encountered.