Book Review: The Great Influenza: Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

For example, the “Spanish Flu” got legs because train loads of American soldiers in Kansas got loaded on trains and shipped east, eventually to Europe. Many where sick when forced on to the trains. Army middle management worried about delivering their charges on-time, ignoring possible problems and showing no compassion towards the sick.

As the disease spread European governments, some very quickly, stepped into action. America’s response…

In the United States, no government, institution, or philanthropist even began to approach a similar level of support.

The disease became known as the Spanish Flu “very likely because only Spanish newspapers were publishing accounts of the spread of the disease that were picked up in other countries.” Spain stayed out of The Great War, meaning their newspapers weren’t subject to censorship, especially about a disease savaging the troops. In other words, those in power worried more about appearances than health.

Notice a trend?

To this day the United States lacks a requirement that employers provide paid sick leave. In fact, I’ve heard of several major employers who terminate employees for missing even a short stretch of days, no matter why the employees’ aren’t at work. Plus – as Sunday’s New York Times editorial chart showed – a major portion of Americans have jobs which lack access to health insurance! That working mom preparing your Quarter Pounder may have two really, really sick kids at home (and she’s sniffling herself).

Speaking of working folks, the Spanish Flu damaged many families’ finances for years. It took the great economic boom of the 1920’s to restore many households to stability.

My favorite waitress is a working mom with two school age kids. She’s been at the same restaurant for 17 years, and, part of her job ought to be considered management. I expect her employer to be ordered to either close its door or go to pick-up only, dramatically reducing the need for waitresses and decimating tip income. Under the current announced plans she might get $120 a week in unemployment. And, this being Missouri, time limits on unemployment could expire before all of her household is well and she’s back at work.

Amazing how 2020 seems just like 1920.

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