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American Experience: Influenza 1918 - worth a look

PBS is currently streaming (for free) "Influenza 1918", part of their excellent series, American Experience. I understand it's also available on Netflix and Amazon.

This is an excellent documentary on the 1918 flu epidemic that killed over 600,000 Americans -- more than all the wars of the 20th Century combined. It's well worth a watch, especially for those (unfortunately, far too many) who remain in denial or are just ignorant about epidemics, what's currently happening, and what's at stake.

I watched it last night. I noticed many, many echoes of things I see and hear every day now from friends on social media, here in this forum, in the national government, and elsewhere -- denial, obfuscation, "optimism", and unfounded hope replacing reason.

Trailer here (link to the full program is at top).

This program is very well done, and well worth your time to watch, especially if you don't know much about the 1918 flu epidemic or epidemics in general.

I hope someone finds this useful.

Posted by
720 posts

And for those still inclined to books and wanting to take a deeper dive into this, there is The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

Posted by
72 posts

Is this only on streaming or are they showing it on the regular PBS channel, do you know?

Posted by
5017 posts

Don't know.

Each PBS station does their own scheduling, so "check your local listings" as they say. Depending on where you get your TV signals from, you may have multiple PBS stations to choose from (I get two: KCTS-9 in Seattle and KBTC-28 from Tacoma). I actually scan the program listings for these two channels weekly, did not notice this program in the next 7 days but can't say for sure (I DVR quite a few of their programs, so I already had a recording of the "Influenza 1918" on my DVR).

Looks like you can see what's "on" for American Experience here (you may need to switch you local station; click that link).

The web page for "Influenza 1918" also says (at the bottom) under "More Ways To Watch", it says "Shop PBS" (I assume that means buying a DVD?), Amazon and Netflix. And, assuming you have a reasonable internet connection and a passable screen to watch it on, you can watch the whole thing online from the link at top. So, multiple ways to get to it.

Posted by
2924 posts

Not intending to hijack David's thread , this documentary ( Also a PBS - NOVA production ) is also quite informative - This is the story of " Typhoid Mary " , and raises the issue of transmissibility of disease , and the conflict between personal liberty and the public well being - https://youtu.be/2dWfndZwG18

Posted by
72 posts

Thank you David. I know we get PBS on channel 9 as well, but can't remember the other one we get. I will take a look and if not then will probably use Netflix.

Posted by
5017 posts

@mikliz97 - Maybe KBTC (from Bates Technical College, in Tacoma). It's channel 28 on my system (DISH).

Posted by
5544 posts

I grew up hearing about the 1918 flu which killed my uncle in an Ivy League college dorm. Thus, I was so happy when all of my grandkids colleges sent them home to do take their courses online.
Thanks for the heads up!

Posted by
3214 posts

I'm another person with a 1918 flu epidemic connection.

My grandmother died a few days after giving birth to premature twins on November 11, 1918 in central OK. One of the twins died. My mother survived.

My grandmother turned 19 on November 10th and died on November 14th. Was it childbirth? Was it the flu? Was it both? The family never talked much about it, but she certainly was in a group hit the hardest by it.

From this Wikipedia article on the Spanish Flu:

"According to historian John M. Barry, the most vulnerable of all – "those most likely, of the most likely", to die – were pregnant women. He reported that in thirteen studies of hospitalized women in the pandemic, the death rate ranged from 23% to 71%.[84] Of the pregnant women who survived childbirth, over one-quarter (26%) lost the child.[85]"

My grandmother was in a very small town, Vanoss. I'm not sure that she gave birth in any kind of medical facility.

The PBS documentary is excellent. I hope people will see it and learn what can happen and how quickly. The Wikipedia article I linked has good, well-referenced information.

Posted by
7109 posts

In the San Francisco Bay Area it’s airing on PBS (Channel 9 or 709 for HD) on 3/31 at 8:00 pm.

I’ll be watching. Thank you David.

Posted by
413 posts

PBS is running it for free. If you have a smart tv most cable providers will carry it via their free services. On Xfinity (Comcast) just do a search for American Experience: Influenza.

Good documentary, learned a lot.

Posted by
72 posts

David--I watched this last night. Wow! It felt like I was watching our current events, but in a different generation. Very scary. Our kids (in their 20's) are watching it this week. I am glad they are interested in it, but then again they are taking this very seriously. Thank you so much for suggesting this!

Posted by
1174 posts

Curious as to why it is also called the Spanish Flu when it seems to have originated in Kansas.

Posted by
5017 posts

The reason, apparently, was because Spain did not participate in World War I (and because we all like to have someone else to "blame" for our troubles). Yeah, sounds crazy. Here's what the linked article says, in part:

Spain was one of only a few major European countries to remain neutral during World War I. Unlike in the Allied and Central Powers nations, where wartime censors suppressed news of the flu to avoid affecting morale, the Spanish media was free to report on it in gory detail. ... 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. The Spanish, meanwhile, believed the virus had spread to them from France, so they took to calling it the “French Flu.”

While it’s unlikely that the “Spanish Flu” originated in Spain, scientists are still unsure of its source. France, China and Britain have all been suggested as the potential birthplace of the virus, as has the United States, where the first known case was reported at a military base in Kansas on March 11, 1918. Researchers have also conducted extensive studies on the remains of victims of the pandemic, but they have yet to discover why the strain that ravaged the world in 1918 was so lethal.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

Posted by
5235 posts

Watched it last night ... stunning! Particularly when noting that this was aired in 1998 ... but "who knew" in 2019 that a flu could be serious ?? (Sarcasm emoji here)