Tulsa Woman Remembers Deadly 1918 Flu

Tuesday, May 5th 2009, 9:33 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- While Oklahoma health workers try to slow the spread of the swine flu, the H1N1 virus brings up memories for a Tulsa woman.

In 1918, it was called the Spanish flu and a woman born a century ago remembers vividly how it affected her family.

It's fair to say Selma Johnson knows a lot about history. She's lived it.

"Just turned 100," Johnson said.

From her apartment at the Burgundy Place retirement community in Tulsa, Johnson is keeping up with what's going on with the H1N1 flu.

"I think they are blowing it up," she said. "I don't think it is as serious (as the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918)."

She was a 9-year-old then and worried about her father and younger brother who got sick.

Johnson had reason to worry. The Spanish flu killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, about three times the number of people killed during World War 1.

Johnson remembers her neighbors dropping food at the front door, while her mother cared for her dad and brother.

When asked what got her family through the difficult situation, John said, "I think the neighbors and prayer."

Those prayers were answered. Johnson's dad and brother recovered.

Now, 91 years later, with the swine flu spreading, including Oklahoma's first confirmed case, Johnson says we all should relax.

"I don't worry about things like that," she said.

She also says to trust that modern technology and medicine will take care of the current H1N1 virus.

"It was old fashioned remedies back then," Johnson said.