Monday, May 22, 2006

Memories of 1918 flu pandemic haunt 21st century

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As health agencies worldwide scramble to stop bird flu from becoming a pandemic that could claim millions of lives, memories of the murderous flu that swept the globe almost 100 years ago haunt the 21st century, passed on from generation to generation, or, in my case, from grandmother to granddaughter.

My grandmother lived through the Great War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great

There was little that could threaten her nerve but until the day she died, Marie Starace was afraid of two things. One was lightning. The other was "The Grip" -- the deadly flu that wreaked havoc on the Brooklyn, New York, neighbourhood where she was born and raised.

So vivid were her memories of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 that whenever she saw us with open coats and throats exposed to the cold, she would gravely warn: "Button up or you'll get the grip." When I was a teenager -- about 50 years after the horrible episode -- I had the sense to ask what this dreaded "grip" was.

"It was a terrible thing. So many people died from the grip when I was a little girl that it seemed like every family lost someone," my grandmother told me.

"It was heartbreaking to see mothers crying for their children. Some of them lost two and three children. I'll never forget one woman crying in my mother's arms because she lost her children and her husband."

"People didn't want to say when someone in their house was sick because the place would be quarantined and no one could get out to work," Granna recalled.

"Some people went out in the middle of the night to get the undertaker because they didn't want it to get around that someone in their house had died from the flu. They were afraid of being reported to the Health Department and quarantined." Read full story via yahoo news