King Alfonso XIII of Spain (r. 1886-1931). So, as far as history is concerned, the pandemic will always be associated with Spain (although in Spain the virus was nicknamed the Naples Soldier). The war and massive troop movements spread it to all points of the globe. The risk of an early death became a real possibility, and life insurance was an effective way of protecting against this risk. The Sept. 28 parade started at Diamond Street, moved south on Broad and ended at Mifflin Street, according to the Evening Public Ledger, a city newspaper. Spain was not involved in the Great War, so when people started coming down with a mystery bug, including King Alfonso XIII, the national media had a field day. All of this created a fertile breeding ground for the Spanish flu virus, which marched around the globe from one pliable host to another with remarkable speed. Others required emergency loans from banks to help with liquidity constraints and the inability to sell investments. In contrast to the death toll from this human-made conflict, the Spanish flu surrendered after having killed at least 50 million people around the world, and possibly even double that number. Parades were part of it. These men were likely to have been breadwinners and their deaths likely resulted in their families being left penniless and indigent. On Sept. 11, 19 sailors at Philadelphia's Navy Yard were sick. And, it usually won. The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. St. Louis fared better than other cities. Some patients exhibited a condition called cyanosis; their lungs filled with fluid and bodies starved of oxygen, they would change color from red to blue to nearly black before dying. Relentless patriotism was used to sell bonds to the public, and loan drives were “the subject of the greatest advertising effort ever conducted,” according to Federal Reserve historians. King Alfonso XIII of Spain became very ill with Spanish Flu in late May 1918. Date, location, odds, halftime show for Super Bowl 55, ‘The Disney Holiday Singalong’ Hits High Note To Top Monday Ratings; ‘The Neighborhood’ Ticks Up. Many – although certainly not all – of those who died owned life insurance policies, which committed the insurance company to pay the beneficiaries hundreds of thousands of dollars. The disease was rampant in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States; wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in these countries. Alas, when Spain’s reigning king Alfonso XIII was infected (in the spring 1918) with the flu (for a second time, actually) and suffered the above-noted symptoms, the world’s media included regular updates on his status. Closer to home, 675,000 Americans (from a population of approximately 105 million) and 50,000 Canadians (from a population of approximately 8.5 million) died from the flu during an approximate 18-month period. This was the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which killed an astounding 50 million worldwide. We all know that the “Spanish Flu” started at the end of World War I in 1918.One of the things people don’t know is that censorship in the warring nations prevented it from being reported properly. Some argued that sales of something that only pays if you die should be banned on moral grounds, even though many of the policies acted like personal pensions and savings plans. These rates are consistent with the fact that North America suffered relatively less from the Spanish flu compared to other regions, such as Europe and Asia. King Alfonso XIII was among an estimated eight million Spaniards infected out of a total population of just under 21 million. People noticed the widespread randomness and counter-intuitive mortality rate from the Spanish flu. Peak death rate, the day with the highest number of cases, per 100,000 population for 1918 flu: NOTE Excess pneumonia and influenza mortality rate, Sept. 8-Dec. 18, 1918, from 1913-17 baseline; SOURCE Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But why? He canceled the city's Liberty Bonds parade. As Quora User said Spain was the only country in Europe that did not sensor reporting of influnza deaths. Some insurance companies (mutual companies, really) had to suspend dividends to shareholders and policy holders. It has never been clear, where the pandemic began. As a result, a substantial segment of the population believed life insurance was a form of gambling, unethical and corrupt. Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain, ruled a socially divided country with most of its close to 20,000,000 citizens impoverished because of the lack of trade and supplies that resulted from World War I. It was naturally a target for war bond sales, and organizers hoped its fourth bond parade would raise millions. Normally one might expect that older, naturally frail and weak people would be the most vulnerable to such a pandemic, with a higher propensity for infection and death. According to estimates published in the 1920s in the same National Underwriter – a publication which actually survives to this day, by the way – the insurance industry paid out claims totaling 0.5% of the U.S. GDP as a result of the Spanish flu. By then it had mushroomed into a global monstrosity that spread via sneezing and coughing, by tiny and very deadly virus particles. Subjects of stories in American periodicals after the flu (in inches of column space): NOTE Prohibition was the ban on sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.; Bolsheviks were far-left Marxist revolutionaries who killed the czar in 1917 and started a communist regime in Russia; SOURCE The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, 1919-1921, as cited in "America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918" by Alfred Crosby. The insurance industry had an appalling image in the decade or two before the Spanish flu pandemic, and some might argue it still does. This was – and continues to be – quite mystifying for epidemiologists who study (and puzzle over) these matters. Consequently, when it was reported in May 1918 that King Alfonso XIII was ill in Madrid, most people dismissed the Spanish flu as a joke. Then, the king of Spain — Alfonso XIII — and several other members of his government contracted the flu. Spain maintained its neutrality during World War One (WW1) and news from there was uncensored. "Cases surged after that.". The “Spanish Flu” did not begin in Spain, nor was it influenza. St. Louis was the sixth-largest city in the USA with a population of about 756,000. In fact, approximately 120,000 Americans died in the violence and battles of World War I, most of which were unrelated to the flu. In fact, there were cases of insurance company checks that should have bounced due to insufficient funds in the relevant accounts, but there were stories of heroic and trusting bank managers who honored the payments nevertheless, knowing that eventually the insurance company would cover the IOUs. Not unlike many other industries in the economy, insurance companies lost employees (and executives) and obviously had a difficult time maintaining day-to-day operations. "St. Louis had the advantage of being able to watch and learn from others' mistakes.". massive bleeding) from the nose, ears and stomach. Many countries in Europe as well as the U.S. were rightfully hesitant to allow open reporting of the new and deadly flu – for fear it would impact the troops’ morale – and used the war censorship process to conceal the extent of the pandemic. “Since all news about the deadly flu came from Spain, it was called 'The Spanish Flu',” Vollset explains. St. Louis is about 17 miles north of Jefferson Barracks, at that time a large Army mobilization point, and Philadelphia was home to the U.S. Navy’s busy Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which housed about 45,000 sailors. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. What is deadnaming and why is it harmful? However, when a 28-year-old-old father (or pregnant mother) died from the Spanish flu, the young family received an immediate and substantial financial disbursement. "The U.S. was used to epidemics. Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world's population at the time – in four successive waves. At first – what much later became known as the Spanish flu – the illness was misdiagnosed by observers as cholera or even typhoid, both of which have similar symptoms. It was a bacterial infection started by an American Army experimental vaccine. That is, approximately 500 million people became ill around the world. The two distinct groups were quite visible, vocal and rather perversely served as a brilliant advertisement for the insurance industry and the benefits of life insurance. (And in Spain, they didn't call it the Spanish flu — it was the French flu, because of course it was.) And it spared nobody – even the then King of Spain Alfonso XIII succumbed to the great Spanish flu! The Pandemic lies go back a long way. "It issued some guidelines but had its hands full with World War I and preventing disease among the troops.". The Spanish monarch King Alfonso XIII was one of the first victims of the pandemic. The Spanish flu made mortality risk and life insurance salient. Now, the large margin of error (tens of millions) in estimating the death toll is unfathomable in today’s world, but one must remember and be cognizant of the difficulties in properly accounting for a cause of death – or even identifying a death – during such a turbulent period. When you consider this was paid out a century ago, it’s an astonishing sum of money. The more an individual was willing and able to fight the disease, the more it fought back. Starkloff, fully supported by the city's mayor, "was very quick to implement city closures," Navarro says. "He did it in a step-wise fashion.". Post-pandemic analyses revealed "social distancing was highly effective against virus transmission," McKinsey says. 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In particular, what was completely unexpected at the time was the age distribution of who was infected and who died. Download the Microsoft News app to get the latest COVID-19 news and analysis on your Android or iPhone device. From that large unlucky group, between 10% to 20% died from causes related to the virus, leading to a mortality rate of between 3% and 6% globally. As the end of the war approached in 1918, the country faced a difficult social and political situation. The Spanish were blamed because their press, unhampered by war, reported the virus’s spread more extensively than elsewhere. The essence of risk pooling is the risk of having many people buying insurance who never make a claim or do so very far into the future. Beyond that, Americans turned their attention elsewhere. Some agents (who weren’t infected) reported issuing or selling a policy to a family one week, barely having collected only one single premium payment, only to return the next week to pay the family because the insured, perhaps a parent or father, had died. St. Louis had far fewer fatalities than Philadelphia. But there was obviously more to it than lack of rest. That was typical of the 1918 Spanish flu, which has been considered the deadliest global pandemic in modern history, with a death count of over 50 million people and 500 million infections! The 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, America and parts of … The Spanish Flu subsequently became front page news in 1918 – … He then abdicated the throne and died (peacefully) in 1941, more than two decades after recovering from a bad case of the flu. For the record, King Alfonso XIII survived the 1918 flu and recovered fully despite the ruthless odds. As noted earlier, one quarter of the U.S. population was infected by the Spanish flu, and although most recovered, an average of 1,250 Americans died every single day over a period of 18 months, leading to a loss of 675,000 lives. The precise origin or patient zero of the Spanish flu pandemic is controversial (note: a pandemic is an epidemic that has spread around the world). "We also found volunteers had a great impact in dealing with the epidemic, especially the Red Cross, which did an excellent job in making masks, training nurse assistants and distributing medical information pamphlets to the public. This is what I refer to as “the longevity shock.”. "That parade gave the epidemic a shot of adrenaline," Navarro says. The reason the Spanish flu was (somewhat of) a godsend for the insurance industry gets back to the issue of who exactly died. Spanish king Alfonso XIII… He was the posthumous son of Alfonso XII of Spain, who had died in November 1885, and became King of Spain upon his birth. Here are 10 interesting facts about this unusually deadly influenza pandemic. Flaxseed oil doesn’t really do any good.). Just after he was born, he was carried naked to the Spanish prime minister Práxedes Mateo on a silver tray. News of the sickness first made headlines in Madrid in late-May 1918, and coverage only increased after the Spanish King Alfonso XIII came down with a nasty case a week later. Could the insurance industry cope? Those families fortunate enough to own and have life insurance – a practice not yet widespread by any means – meant they had some measure of financial security. He will be known (in infamy) as the person who bequeathed the name Spanish flu to the world, as well as indirectly spawning the cruelties of the Spanish civil war and General Francisco Franco. The reasons for these regional variations in mortality rates are still being debated a century later. But in the spring of 1919 the final series was canceled when most of the Montreal Canadiens (a perennial favorite at the time, because they had won the most games) were bedridden. Later on, many members of the government were also infected. There are multiple theories about where the virus originated, including France, China and Haskell County, Kansas, about 200 miles west of Wichita. Separate and distinct from the variation in mortality, was how the mortality rates varied as a function of the afflicted person’s chronological age. But in their defense, the insurance industry wasn’t the only group taking advantage of the nascent salience of the Spanish flu to flog commercial and industrial products. That’s about 4 miles. As far as the government was concerned, officially speaking, if people (soldiers) were dying from an unknown illness, battles and fighting were officially to blame. The equivalent of hyperinflation for mortality. '", And finally, there was the shadow of World War I itself. The extra deaths, they claim, were attributed to World War I, not the flu. A full century later whenever some enterprising politician or lawmaker threatens to tinker with any of the tax or regulatory benefits enjoyed by the insurance industry, the retort and defense of the status quo inevitably revolves around references to widows and orphans that will be left destitute. Recall that the 28-year-old men in the Figure were also most likely to be new parents themselves with young children at home. I’ll say that the industry’s survival (from the Spanish flu) was a success story for actuarial science. It did for me. Even though they didn't have the highest or lowest death rates in the country, two major U.S. cities emerged as examples of government response in what to do and what not to do: St. Louis, which recognized the viral danger and took immediate steps to contain it, and Philadelphia, which did not. Approximately one-third of the world’s population was infected (morbidity) and became ill during the influenza pandemic. The conflict was costly, about $32 billion, or about half of that era’s gross national product, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. It caused widespread devastation, but despite its origins, it became known as Spanish flu, named after the Spanish king at that time, Alfonso XIII. Alfonso was born at Royal Palace of Madrid in Madrid on 17 May 1886. How much could you save with the Liberals’ $400 home office deduction? Victory parades were mostly outlawed, but bars and taverns remained open as long as patrons took the bottled beer home with them to drink in private. That’s the essence of risk pooling. The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic didn’t originate in Spain as the name would seem to ... and coverage only increased after the Spanish King Alfonso XIII came down with a bad case a week later From the 1920s onward, the insurance industry earned a stature and power that persists a full century later. Now, like many other aspects of the Spanish flu narrative, the reasons for this puzzlingly low mortality rate among the elderly, has been subject to much scientific speculation. See comparisons for Iran and Japan, for example. Marketing departments and executives leveraged the sudden salience of risk – which did not last very long thanks to fading memories – to promote life insurance, a product that previously had not garnered much respect. I would call it the 20th century’s first and greatest longevity shock. Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world's population at the time. But, by early March 1918, American doctors and pathologists realized they were dealing with a very different beast. Don’t get me wrong. Health officials, who either believed it was true or wanted to avoid hurting public morale, said there was little chance it would spread among the public. In this scenario, the social benefits were clear and evident to all. By pooling small amounts of money from large groups of policyholders who paid regular periodic premiums, the companies were able to create a very large fund that could be used to support and pay the beneficiaries. Now, some readers might find it callous of me to focus on (hockey or) the rather trivial aspects of money in the wake of what has been described as the greatest medical holocaust in history, but the insurance industry is quite central to the story here. This might sound quite odd, crass and perhaps even cruel, but it’s true. The younger (and stronger) the biological immune system, the harder it was to fight off the Spanish flu. I would argue – and I don’t say this lightly – that the Spanish flu was one of the best things that happened to the insurance industry (at least in the U.S.) in the early part of 20th century. Spanish flu vs Covid-19: how the global pandemics compare including death toll, number of cases and symptoms ... including the infection of the county’s King Alfonso XIII. In the most extreme cases the signs of severe illness included hemorrhaging (i.e. The first flu deaths were reported in Boston on Sept. 8, 1918, the day before 300 sailors from the city arrived in Philadelphia. Although it was unclear at the time whether these insurance companies could sustain such financial pressure and survive the flu themselves. The 1918 Spanish influenza – a vicious disease, some historians call it – emerged as World War I was ending. In other countries, this outbreak in Spain was reported in the news with no mention of what was happening locally, which made it seem unique to that country, and the name Spanish flu was born. And again, it was the youngest (chronologically) adults who experienced the highest death rate. Anyway, the debate goes on. For the most up-to-date COVID-19 information from the Canadian government please visit Canada.ca/COVID19. Even the very etymology of 'Spanish Flu' bears an intrinsic link to sport. Recall that in early 1918 – that is before the famous Armistice Day of November 11, 1918 – the world was deep in the fog of battle, with troops moving around Europe and living in close quarters within the theatre of war. Alfonso XIII (Spanish: Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Habsburgo-Lorena; 17 May 1886 – 28 February 1941) was King of Spain from 1886 until the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931. Even the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, caught influenza in 1918. It was named the Spanish flu when Spanish newspapers reported its presence on World War I battlefields and after Spanish King Alfonso XIII … By May 1918, a million U.S. soldiers were fighting in Europe, according to the Smithsonian. Spain remained neutral during World War I. At the time, its bad reputation was partly because the industry was deeply involved in scandals relating to the sale of (something called) tontine insurance policies. The war was funded by a combination of higher taxes and the sale of Liberty Bonds, which were securities issued by the Treasury Department to raise money. A final wave of the flu occurred in February 1919, and after that, the flu … For all intents and purposes, insurance companies were the only ones that could protect families against the financial consequences of this longevity shock. In fact, from May 1918, Beiner also noted, the Spanish press reported extensively about the spread of the disease throughout the country, not excluding the fact that King Alfonso XIII had been infected, together with the prime minister and some ministers. Countries around the world started hearing all of this frightening news out of Spain and assumed that it was ground zero for the flu. He closed public places such as schools, theaters, playgrounds, city courts and churches and banned gatherings of more than 20 people. This doubt was embraced by many Philadelphians who "saw the war as the real priority and even characterized the hype of the flu as a 'German ploy,' " historian Jeffery Anderson, who published his master's thesis on the pandemic at Rutgers, told USA TODAY. After five games the championship was cancelled. Since nations undergoing a media blackout could only read in depth accounts from Spanish news sources, they naturally assumed that the country was the pandemic’s ground zero. States and cities devised their own strategies because "the federal government really didn't do a lot," McKinsey says. Estimated peak death rate per 100,000 population in 16 weeks for 1918 flu: NOTE Excess pneumonia and influenza mortality rate, Sept. 14-Dec. 14, 1918, from 1913-17 baseline; peak is the day with the highest number of cases; SOURCE Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "There was a different mentality then," Stephens says. "They recognized that crowds were a danger," McKinsey says. It came in three waves, "the first in the spring of 1918; the second, more deadly, in the fall of 1918; and the third in February-March in 1919," Navarro says. It’s quite a jarring picture and should elicit a wow moment. The United States entered the war April 6, 1917. The numbers kept climbing, spilling over from sailors to workers to citizens. The second and most deadly wave occurred in October 1918 and resulted in millions of deaths. For some companies that were particularly hard hit, the actual number of claims exceeded the expected number of claims by up to 50%. "The political machine was too powerful," Anderson says. "St. Louis had an energetic and visionary health official in Dr. Max Starkloff," Navarro says. So, as far as history is concerned, the pandemic will always be associated with Spain (although in Spain the virus was nicknamed the Naples Soldier). But influenza alone did not kill all those people. 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