Spanish Flu second wave graphs: Did the 1918 pandemic have a second wave?

Tens of millions died during the infamous Spanish Flu pandemic. The majority of victims died during the ‘black’ months of October, November and December 1918 and January 1919. Statisticians at FullFact have now addressed whether the startling similarities between both coronavirus scenarios mean whether a potential second wave could trigger a similar death toll.

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Thousands of Facebook users have shared a controversial Facebook post warning “humanity should never allow a repeat of the same mistake in 1918.”

The social media post said: “The most severe pandemic in history was the Spanish Flu of 1918.

“It lasted for two years, in three waves with 500 million people infected and 50 million deaths.

“Most of the fatalities happened in the second wave.

“The people felt so bad about the quarantine and social distancing measures that when they were first lifted, the people rejoiced in the streets without abandon.

“In the coming weeks, the second wave occurred, with tens of millions dead.”

But the claims concerning the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic are, in reality, a mixture of accurate and inaccurate information.

The 1918 influenza outbreak, best known as Spanish Flu raced around the world in the years following the First World War.

Spanish Flu infected at least 500 million people and killed 50 million, making it the deadliest pandemic in the modern era.

Most fatalities happened in the second wave of the virus, which historians think was caused by wartime troop movements.

A graphic included in the Facebook post is popular when discussing Spanish Flu’s three waves.

Experts believe this data originates from weekly influenza mortality figures for England and Wales, instead of global numbers.

The source of these figures most likely arrives from a book first published in 1927, which sourced data from a 1920 General Register Office report.

However, it is wrong to say the lifting of quarantine and social distancing measures was the second wave’s cause.

In reality, public health measures greatly varied, with parades still being held in Autumn 1918, at the second wave’s peak.

And quarantine measures were implemented during the second wave in the US.

The precise reason for the flu’s second wave remains a mystery.

Spanish Flu is usually more associated with wider failures in public health policy.

And additionally, issues related to the First World War are also blamed.

Historians now believe the severity of the virus in those three winter months in 1918 could have been caused in part by wartime troop movements.

James Harris, a historian at Ohio State University who studies both infectious disease and World War I said: “The rapid movement of soldiers around the globe was a major spreader of the disease.

“The entire military industrial complex of moving lots of men and material in crowded conditions was certainly a huge contributing factor in the ways the pandemic spread.”

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