Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Influenza in India 1918

While I was working in the stacks on the India Papers Collection I had a look at some of the Sanitary Commissioner's annual reports from 1918, when influenza swept the world and killed millions. Thousands were killed in the Madras Presidency; in some districts as many as between 30-50,000 people. One problem was the superstitions of the people, particularly in rural areas:"Several people, mostly in the interior, were averse in the beginning to resorting to a medical treatment under a superstitious belief that the epidemic was a visitation of the Goddess or Amman and that no treatment by drugs should be attempted." (Annual report of the Sanitary Board, the annual report of the Sanitary Commissioner and the annual report of the Sanitary Engineer, Madras 1918)
Meanwhile the European Army in India had 19,308 men admitted to hospital and 775 deaths. As in the rest of the world, the second wave in autumn 1918 caused high mortality amongst sufferers.