John Dorney interviews Dr Ida Milne on the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918.
Ida Milne is the author of Stacking the Coffins, a history of the 1918 flu in Ireland. The flu killed as many as 50 million people worldwide and about 23,000 in Ireland.
We talk about how the flu originated and how it was spread it the context of the First World War and its aftermath.
We also discuss the characteristics, infectiousness and deadliness of the 1918 flu and its chronology, both worldwide and in Ireland. Symptoms of the disease included patients turning blue, violent headaches, bleeding from orifices and even hair loss.
We go on to talk about the mostly ineffectual medical remedies used against it and the social and political impact of the disease, especially the momentous General Election of 1918.
One point that Ida makes is that 1918 pandemic, gruesome though it was was not as unusual as one might think in the context of a society where epidemics were much more common than they are today.
Inevitably we also discuss the parallels between 1918 and the current Covid 19 pandemic.