Down with a flu - The Second wave
While Ireland, and Dublin in particular was still reeling from the shock of the torpedoing of the RMS Leinster a more sinister situation was brewing. The resurgence of the Spanish Flu which had already claimed hundreds of lives.
The second wave of Influenza had obtained a grip on Bombay by the 23rd September 1918 with 427 deaths being recorded. A serious epidemic had broken out at the Johannesburg mines and had spread to Capetown and Bloemfontein by the beginning of October. By this time officials in Dublin realised they had a similar situation on their hands, they identified four deaths from what they had called the Spanish Flu. By the 5th of October they had 10 deaths and another 30 people had died from Pneumonia. On the 12th October, just 2 days after the Leinster disaster, it was recommended that Dublin Schools should close for a second time that year. From the 12th to the 19th of October there were 101 deaths from flu and 58 from Pneumonia but bear on mind this was not a notifiable disease until January 1919. The results were similar country wide. In the first week of November the death rate in Dublin was 72.3 per thousand, which equated to 501 deaths of which 339 were from Influenza and pneumonia.
The Rathdown area was particularly badly hit, Dr Raverty the medical officer from Bray pronounced that ordinary methods of treatment were quite inadequate. On one day alone he visited 74 house with 300 cases and had found it necessary to appoint two extra doctors to help him. Dr Judd in Stillorgan had to call in the assistance of Dr Armstrong to help him but they were losing the battle.
By the end of October this second wave of flu had a tight hold on 43 America states with reports that there were a thousand cases in New York and the 115 of them had died in a 24 hour period. On 31 Oct 1918 Sir Charles Cameron, Superintendent Medical Officer of Health announced they were have some success with preventive measures like disinfecting the streets. Belfast was under attack again having been the first city in Ireland to experience the Spainsh Flu in May of 1918. Waterford had fallen victim this time having escaped the first round and in Wicklow the disease was raging. Coal was in short supply and people were asked to refrain from buying Bovril as it was needed for those recuperating.
By 8th November the epidemic had abated and schools were starting to re-open in Dublin. By the 13 Nov 1918 Sir Charles thought it was in decline and would probably just last three more weeks. It is estimated that 800,000 people in Ireland caught it, and 23,000 died. Spanish Flu in Ireland was responsible for many more deaths than the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War combined.
Photograph - Children outside Stillorgan School courtesy of Colm D'Alton