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Soldier Describes the Spanish ‘Flu’

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published on March 21, 2020

As history repeats itself, I thought this article in the Dec. 12, 1918 issue of the hometown weekly newspaper is worth passing along.

        You certainly won’t want to contract the “flu” after reading the following description of the effects of the disease, written by a soldier in training at Camp McArthur, Texas. This is probably the most vivid and realistic description ever written of what one experiences while in the throes of the Spanish influenza. After recovering from an attack of the malady, the soldier was inspired to write the following:

The Flu

When your back is broke and your eyes are blurred,

            And your shin bones knock and your tongue is furred,

            And your tonsils squeak and your hair gets dry,

            And you’re doggoned sure that you’re going to die,

            But you’re, skeered you won’t and afraid you will,

            Just drag yourself to bed and have your chill;

            For you’ve got the “flu”, boy, you’ve got the “flu”.

 When your toes curl up and your belt goes flat,

            And you’re twice as mean as a Thomas cat,

            And life is a long and dismal curse,

            And your feed all tastes like a hardboiled hearse;

            When your lattice aches and your head’s a-buzz,

            And nothing is as it ever was,

            Here are my sad regrets to you –

            You’ve got the “flu”, boy, you’ve got the “flu”.

 What is it like, this Spanish flu?

            Ask me, brother, for I’ve been through;

            It pulls your teeth and curls your hair,

            And drives you down to deep despair.

            It thins your blood and breaks your bones,

            And fills your craw with moans and groans,

            And sometimes, maybe, you get well.

            Some call it flu, I call it hell!

        The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 was one of the most severe medical episodes in modern history. Said to have killed more people in a single year than the infamous 14th century European Black Death, the pandemic infected a full third of the world’s population. 

        About 500 million people contracted it, with at least 50 million dying as a result. In the United States alone, one-quarter of the population became ill and fatalities numbered about 675,000.

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