No one knows for sure how or when or where it started. There is a lot of research in this regard, there are many theories and almost everything makes sense: it was in the southern South American military camp in 1917, which was in a hospital in northern France, which was in China's Shanxi province. Some even say that it is not a natural disaster but a biological weapon: a conspiracy, an evil act.
But because people like novels, individual dramas, there is even an unfortunate name from the first patient who has symptoms between his chest and his back and runs to the hospital: It was March 4, 1918, and Albert Gitchell, a cook at Camp Fuston military base in Kansas, presented alarming influenza images., although it was later believed that it was something else. I was shivering from a fever, I kept coughing.
That same afternoon, at the same hospital, a stretcher could not cope with a sick person who came with the same symptoms: sweating and unable to breathe, some even bleeding from the nose or mouth and crawling as if it were a final improvement in the world. And that is somehow. The plague has arrived; the plague has returned.
Because the scene began to recur throughout the country and later, immediately, throughout the world. There is news even in many places where, since the end of 1917, the flu has prostrated and killed people, but it was only in the spring of 1918 that it became clear that it was an epidemic, or even worse, a frightening pandemic: a shadow that devours everything on its path, like fire, mercilessly bombards its victims.
The fire that runs on dry grass, as well as the plague called & # 39; Spanish flu & # 39; in 1918; a fire that stretched on fire, because the world was still at war, the Great War, the First World War. In fact, as is well known, the name of the disease has something to do with Spain as a neutral war actor, and that is why information was first circulated about what actually happened.
In other European countries, on the other hand, governments are dying of fear (commensurate with the expression) that news about the pandemic will reduce the mood of the civilian population and above all from the troops, and that is why they decided to censor and limit the data revealed about the swaying disease, the data was getting worse: As if flu will kill more people than war, and that's what happened in the end.
The numbers are very oscillating, statistics in stories are usually not exact science. But it is assumed that in the First World War more or less, between 17 and 30 million people died; it is always a debated and approximate calculation, a discussion. Well: because & # 39; Spanish flu & # 39; 50 million people die in the world, according to some historians, and there may be more, including 100 million.
As if a ferocious crescent (La Parca's anxious arm) had proposed to destroy the people who had just survived, and still do, the horrors of war, and there were many who managed to return home after dodging the bullet miracles in the Somme, at Verdun , in Ypres, in Marne, died on the bed coughing and crying, spitting blood, staring into God's eyes.
That was the most paradoxical thing about the influenza epidemic that destroyed the world in 1918, and that happened only in the year when the war ended, as if it were a coup de grace. But we must also say, to expand the paradox, that if it wasn't for the plague, maybe the war would last longer. Maybe it's a victim of & # 39; a Spanish woman & # 39 ;, as it is also called, which saves all the others.
How many more Europeans can fight in their world? No one knows; To answer that is to think of stories of what did not happen. Although the truth is that this war has begun as a generation of nostalgia in the nineteenth century, it is longer than previous wars and geopolitical errors which, since Napoleon Bonaparte, have made Europe a powder keg ready to explode.
It's a war that doesn't make sense, like all, but more than everything. Woven by underground forces such as erupting volcanoes, but detonated by only two shots in Sarajevo, in June 1914, when a Bosnian fundamentalist killed the nobleman of Austria Francisco Fernando and his wife Sofía. Then there is no turning back, as Christopher Clark said, Europe is a sleeper force on its way to the ravine.
And those who marched for war, almost in their uniforms in 1870, did so while singing and dancing, convinced that after a few months they would return home. But history is also a monster Dr. Frankenstein: humanity's progress is its rewards and punishments, sometimes it drags it over and over and opens its eyes in the worst way.
That happened in the First World War: this is the end of the world; that the technical progress of mankind is so much and almost unexpected that when they are applied to the art of destruction and war, the sides are flooded, paralyzed in the horrors of the trenches. See how bombs fall from the sky, inhaling deadly gases which have since been used against enemies.
So, starting in the 20th century: in the endless and fierce battles that occurred during these four years of war, and where the dead were gathered by millions of people. Not in vain there too, in the second battle of the Somme, where J. R. R. Tolkien had the first vision of Mordor: hell. As if the story changed the skin; as if the world really ended.
That's at least the feeling they have, side by side, since the mid-17th year: too much time struggling for nothing, too many people die without being defeated. And even though on the battlefield, the soldiers left their souls and their skin, at various embassies and salons of diplomats and secret agents trying to reach a peace agreement, whatever it was.
In April 1917, the United States, which maintained "armed neutrality", entered the war after German aggression, another. This is how alliances between France, Britain and Russia can breathe a little on the western front, where central forces, namely the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, have been cornered after fierce attacks in Flanders and north of France.
Russia, however, lived in a deep internal seizure, which immediately led to the fall of the Tsarist regime and its establishment, in February of the same year, from an impossible republic where power was divided between Liberals and Liberals. The Bolsheviks, who later, in October, made the Soviet revolution. But behind the two Russian revolutions was the promise to end the war; nothing holds more.
Since May 1918 Spanish health services, medical academies, newspapers, and even congressmen in Cortes began talking about the alarming influenza outbreak that has raged in the country. Martín Salazar, the royal health inspector, said he had no news that something like this happened throughout Europe, even though in Spain the dead had several thousand, with the king sick.
That is a lie: in all of Europe the situation is as serious as in Spain, or even more so, only no one dares to say so that the war does not add to flu deaths: & # 39; Spanish flu & # 39; , the plague that people don't want to talk about. Friedrich Jünger wrote to his brother Ernst: "I suffer from Spanish disease: chills, headaches and body aches … If the flu is not dangerous this is an epidemic, the war will end!"
Throughout Europe the situation was as serious as in Spain, or even more so, only nobody dared to say it
Epidemic without a truce
Well, it's not a harmless flu, but it is: outbreaks, brutal pandemics like they have not been seen since the Black Death in the Middle Ages, and have never been seen again, fortunately. The last influenza epidemic in the world in 1890, but # Spain; is the H1N1 subtype flu which, very strange, is especially deadly for young people, while parents, victims of the history of the disease, tolerate better.
Why? The answer is in the war itself, in the trenches. That is why the Spanish flu is spreading, because it has a very unhealthy context, and also great human mobility, and because as if young people who consume their lives in the future have no defense to tolerate viruses that have three times against their victims: in the season spring and autumn 1918, and early 1919.
And behind it the plague left more deaths than war, like the shadow: Egon Schiele or Gustav Klimt, for example. Others survived, such as Walt Disney, Franklin Roosevelt, Groucho Marx or Mahatma Gandhi. But the fate of war was thrown, as Erich Ludendorff, commander of the German army, said: "My people can survive all but not this curse …".
The final and failed attack from the central forces against the allies on the western front persuaded them that it was best to surrender, to save their skin. The Ottoman Empire watered, the Austro-Hungarian Empire too. People rose in Germany against Kaiser, calling for peace. It was all very fast, almost like the war had begun four years ago: between October and November 1918, the story was getting faster.
On November 9, Pablo Picasso went to visit in Paris, his friend, Guillaume Apollinaire, an extraordinary poet. He saw him die of the Spanish flu when people outside shouted: "Guillermo is dead, Guillermo is dead!".
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany had abdicated. Two days later, peace was signed. Plague and peace.
JUAN ESTEBAN KONSTAÍN
Especially for TIME