Influenza 1918

About the Show

Kansas in the spring of 1918: Private Albert Gitchell, a cook, reported to the Army hospital before breakfast. He had a fever, sore throat, headache, just the 'flu, nothing to worry about. One minute later, another soldier showed up, then another. By noon of that first day, the baffled hospital staff had 107 cases on their hands; in the next month, well over a thousand. Before it was over, some 25,000,000 Americans had caught the flu and 675,000 would be dead. Soldiers and sailors got it first. The crowded army camps, with traffic back and forth to flu-ridden Europe, became home base for the influenza. From the northeastern seaboard it followed the railroads and slowly seeped into towns and hamlets all across the country. In St. Louis, U.S. Congressman Jacob Meeker, 40, married his secretary. The bride and groom, judge and witnesses, all wore masks; Meeker died seven hours later. It struck the ordinary citizen and the famous alike. This sobering documentary tells the story of America’s first encounter with a deadly pandemic that knew no borders.