STUMP » Articles » Memory Monday: Current Flu Hospitalizations and Second Week of February 1918 » 12 February 2018, 03:05

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Memory Monday: Current Flu Hospitalizations and Second Week of February 1918  


12 February 2018, 03:05

In last week’s post, I looked at this season’s flu mortality, which looks to be on a par with 2014-2015.

I said I’d look at morbidity, so here’s one aspect: hospitalizations.

U.S. Hospitals Overflow as Flu Epidemic Spreads Unabated

The number of Americans hit by an already record-setting flu season continues to rise as hospitalization rates hit new highs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Hospitals are more crowded than in the 2014-2015 flu season, which marked the previous record when 710,000 Americans needed medical care to beat the illness, said Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s acting director. The agency also reported the deaths of an additional 16 children over the past week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths attributed to the flu to 53 so far this season. Half of them had no additional health complications that would have placed them at elevated risk, Schuchat said.
The relentless outbreak has led politicians in several states to reach out directly to constituents and urge them to take action to stall the spread, reaffirming the message from medical experts that everyone should get a flu shot. There was a 50% rise in people affected last week in New York, where new cases hit a record of 11,683 and 2,221 people were admitted to hospitals. Governor Andrew Cuomo called on New Yorkers to get the flu shot Thursday, more than two months after the influenza season began in earnest.

It can take up to two weeks for the immunization to kick in, with no guarantee of protection. The most optimistic studies have reported that this year’s vaccine will protect only one in three people, but its true effectiveness won’t be known until after the season is over. On Thursday, Canadian researchers found that the flu shot is only about 17% effective at preventing illness from the resilient H3N2 strain, the primary virus this season, and only 10% effective for those aged 20 to 64.

Schuchat added that other strains are spreading, too, including Influenza B virus and H1N1, and that the vaccine is more effective at beating those back.

Yes, please get a flu shot. Even if it’s not fully effective for the most prevalent strain, it is effective for others. I got mine back in October, and I got the kids shots a couple weeks ago, when I first heard the announcement by Gov. Cuomo.

So let’s go back to the CDC’s FluView site and look at the hospitalization data. I’m grabbing the data a bit ahead of time, so I have this data through the fourth week of the year (i.e., most of January.)

Here are the weekly hospitalization rates overall:

Yup, hospitalizations seem to have peaked at a higher rate than the 2014-2015 season.

Let’s break it out by age group:

Again, it’s the oldest population who are hardest hit.

But check out the yellow line — that’s the age 50-64 group, aka the younger Boomers. Their hospitalization rate is higher than in 2014-2015, which may be a big driver in this particular epidemic.

Vaccines tend not to work as well for old folks — and hospitalizations for kids are fairly low. But it’s kids spreading the germs. Please wash your hands and keep germy kids away from old folks. A little achy flu can kill older people easily.

I found something else that really has been higher this time, but I’ll hold it for next week. Yes, it’s a bad flu season. But the mortality level ain’t got a patch on the Spanish Flu (at its height). The Spanish Flu didn’t peak til later in 1918, so for the second week of February 1918, I’ve mainly got a bunch of war stuff.


I saw one indication in the paper from 8 February 1918: a piece mentioning animals (for the war effort, like horses), dying from flu.

It’s that last paragraph to look at. Hmmm.


This particular issue of the Brewster had two extra pages, due to a Red Cross-specific insert. Much of the material was about what they did for sending Christmas packages to the soldiers overseas.

Here is something very practical — a bunch of sweaters bought by the Red Cross:

And they “assigned” schools to produce clothes for war refugees:

The French and Belgian refugees got started beingn refugees in 1914, in some cases. I did not look back to see if there were drives from the U.S. back then.


There are a lot of items on food, especially rationing.

Something naming Herbert Hoover:

You may know Herbert Hoover as the failed President preceding FDR. What was he up to in 1918?

Let’s go to Wikipedia!

U.S. Food Administration[edit]

After the United States entered the war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover to head the U.S. Food Administration, which was created under the Lever Food Control Act in 1917 to ensure the nation’s food needs during the war. This was a position he actively sought, though he later claimed it was thrust upon him. He was convinced from his Belgian work that centralization of authority was essential to any relief effort; he demanded, and got, great power albeit not as much as he sought.71 Hoover believed “food will win the war”; and beginning on September 29, this slogan was introduced and put into frequent use.72 Earning the appellation of “food czar,” Hoover recruited a volunteer force of hundreds of thousands of women and deployed propaganda in movie theaters, schools, and churches.73
Determined to avoid rationing, Hoover established set days for people to avoid eating specified foods and save them for soldiers’ rations: meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, and “when in doubt, eat potatoes.” These policies were dubbed “Hooverizing” by government publicists, in spite of Hoover’s continual orders that publicity should not mention him by name.

You know, I can imagine that some of the people who dealt with meatless Mondays and wheatless Wednesday, when they got a load of the begin-of-Depression Hoover, decided they had enough of him.

While I did not check on the U.S. Red Cross doing stuff from 1914-1917 re: European war refugees, I did scroll up a little and saw that Hoover ran a private charity to help Belgian war refugees.

Other parts of the propaganda re: American voluntary rationing:


I have no idea what the following is about.

So, what are these supposed made-in-Germany lies, and how would those hamper Canadian food conservation?

I can’t even begin to read between the lines, though I’m sure a historian of WWI could tell me.

One thing I do note: I have seen/heard some of the “news” stories of WWI run in French & British newspapers. Some of what was run was later exposed as being gross lies, and so I understand many people being skeptical about German atrocities in WWII (and later, some of the Soviet atrocities, which were papered over by the Allies when the USSR got stabbed in the back by Hitler.)

Some of the propaganda in WWI was so crude, it is hardly surprising there was a reaction.

I wonder what those (dead) folks would have thought of today’s meme’s wars and animated gifs.