Deadly 1918 Pandemic Linked To Swine Flu

Thursday, April 30th 2009, 9:16 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The worst flu pandemic in modern history killed 50 million people and is linked to the same H1N1 virus as the current outbreak.

Tourists donning masks. Schools shutting down. Doctors tracking new cases as they pop up around the globe.

It's eerily similar to the last time the swine flu wreaked global havoc 90 years ago.

The same virus sickening people from Mexico to Michigan is the same strain linked to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. It was dubbed the Spanish Flu.

Back then, people wore masks and were urged to stay home.

For now, those killed are just over 100 worldwide. Then, the death toll was in the hundreds of thousands, in the U.S. alone.

Federal health officials say the pandemic hit in Oklahoma in late September 1918 with outbreaks in Tulsa and Clinton.

Just a few weeks later, 1,200 Oklahomans in 24 counties were sick with the flu.

In Tulsa, the Red Cross opened an emergency hospital, where 260 were admitted and 20 died.

Oklahoma City was forced to cancel a Food and Drug Administration conference because 300 were sick.

Doctors worked around the clock, but many couldn't keep track of all the cases, so the number of Oklahomans affected is unknown.

The 1918 pandemic swept the globe in three waves. Kansas officials first started reporting an outbreak in March. It didn't hit Oklahoma until six months later.