1918 - symptoms of the killer Spanish flu

The first wave of the flu followed typical flu symptoms consisting of a three-day fever, a cough and a runny nose, followed by a rapid convalescence.

The second and third waves were often fatal. Of every 1000 people who were infected, 800 had severe flu symptoms. The remaining 200 had lung complications, 120 of whom could be classified as desperately ill or dying.

Normal flu symptoms accompanied by a very high fever, shivering and muscle aches quickly translated into lung complications, sometimes progressing to bronchopneumonia, which sometimes swept through the body like toxaemia or septicaemia. People literally drowned in their own fluids.

Sources for the whole section on the 1918 epidemic in South Africa: SA Railways and Harbour Magazine, December 1918; Phillips, Howard. South Africa's worst Demographic Disaster: The Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918. (South African Historical Journal, (20), 1988.

Read more:
Flu and smokers
How do people get flu?
Watch out for these flu complications

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
34% - 9249 votes
No
66% - 17780 votes
Vote