Won’t You Help Shun that “Spanish” Bug? (1918)

Surgeon General’s Office Tells How To Make the Influenza Germ Die of Loneliness

Washington, Oct. 11.—“What is Spanish influenza ?”

Army Medical Department officers on duty at the Surgeon General’s Office when asked this question the other day pointed out that the disease known as “Spanish Influenza ” is identical with influenza and that the prefix “Spanish” came to be used on the supposition that it had started in Spain this year.

The symptoms of influenza are, a severe headache, pains in the bones and muscles, especially in the back and legs; marked prostration; fever running as high as 104; sometimes nausea; also a seeming sore throat. There is a little running from the nose and eyes and some sneezing and coughing.

Our collection, America and World War I: American Military Camp Newspapers, addresses a topic and period that continues to be of the widest interest and importance to scholars, students, and the general public – America in the World War I Era. Camp newspapers make important original source material—much of it written by soldiers for soldiers—readily available for research.

There is no question about the seriousness of the present epidemic. Hundreds of cases have been reported daily. From one camp alone, when this was written, more than 12,000 cases had been reported. In staying this wave of disease, medical officers know that common sense will play an important part. They have confidence in the American soldier, realizing that he possesses this attribute.

This attitude of theirs discloses one of the vital points of difference between the Hun and the American in khaki. The German officer regards his men as machines, while the American looks upon those in his command, as men. The opinion was put forward that it is now up to the American soldier to vindicate this confidence in him and help stop the influenza epidemic by means of team play on the part of every man in uniform.

“What can each man do to help most?” This question was laid before an officer in the Surgeon General’s Office. His reply was:

  • “First, he should do what he is told to do regarding measures of prevention.”
  • “Second, being an American soldier he should take an intelligent interest in the campaign and pass all rules, instructions and tips on to his neighbor.”
  • “Third, since influenza is spread person to person by droplets of infection from the mouth and nose and throat, when he coughs or sneezes it is his duty to see that he does not spray his fellow or allow them to spray him.”
  • “Fourth, he should stay away from men having the disease, except when in line of duty.”
  • “Fifth, if he thinks he has contracted influenza , he must go on sick report at once. He owes it to the other men, as well as to himself.”

Influenza is a distinct disease from which people in cities and armies suffer, in epidemic form from time to time. Like most of the great epidemic diseases, once started it spreads in waves over large areas of country. When it last appeared in 1890 it went over the whole world in about a year. Formerly, it was thought to be carried by air or atmospheric currents, but scientific investigation has disclosed that like most epidemic diseases it is carried by persons. It can spread, no more rapidly than people can travel. Since it has been prevalent in Europe in the present invasion, it has ben carried to America many times and by many persons.

The Army Medical Department is keeping an eagle eye watch on health conditions in all camps and warning those places which as yet have escaped the danger and spread of the epidemic. It is supplying medical officers and nurses in almost unlimited numbers, providing hospital facilities and expanding hospital space to meet unexampled demands. Since there is no disease, not even smallpox, which attacks a greater portion of men, preparations are being made by the Surgeon General’s Office to meet every imaginable exigency.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

Related Posts


Stay Connected

Connect with Accessible Archives on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin to stay up to date on news and blog posts or get our latest blog posts by email.

Positive SSL