Today, 98 years ago, Spanish flu strikes South Africa


The first cases of an unusually severe and deadly strain of influenza, popularly called the Spanish Flu or ‘Great Flu’, were diagnosed on this 14 September in Durban in 1918.

This became the worst pandemic ever experienced in South Africa. With just a total population of just above 6 million at the time, nearly half contracted the disease, while close to 140,000 died within a few weeks.

The disease spread throughout the entire country and often whole families were ill or dying, with nobody left to care for them.

An international, multi-disciplinary conference was held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) from 12 to 15 September 1998 to mark the 80th anniversary of the pandemic.

During this conference attention was paid the causes, course and consequences of this catastrophe.

It is currently generally accepted that the pandemic owed its origin to avian flu.

Source: South African History Online

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