28th October 1918
Spanish flu arrives in Jersey
The deaths of John and Edith Jeune, within days of falling ill, confirmed everyone’s worst fears: Jersey would be afflicted with Spanish Flu, like much of the rest of the world. The authorities instituted the same kind of lockdown as was necessary during the 2020 coronavirus outbreak. Anywhere that members of the public could gather en masse, including theatres, schools and bars, was closed down, and businesses had their hours of operation reduced.
Jersey Heritage’s Archive Annual Report for 2018, published on the States Assembly website, reveals that 100-year-old records unsealed that year detailed cases of the nearly 300 Jersey residents who were infected by Spanish Flu in 1918. It notes, “we suddenly see a significant rise in the numbers of individuals who entered the hospital for influenza. This sometimes included whole families such as Clement Joseph Aubin, aged 50 who was admitted to the hospital on 26 October with his 7 children who were aged between 8 and 17 and his wife Elvina Aubin who was the first to enter the hospital on 22 October. Whilst Clement and his children appear to have survived the epidemic, Elvina died on 29 October.”
The origin of Spanish flu
Despite the name, Spanish Flu didn’t originate in Spain. However, in the aftermath of the First World War many countries were still operating under strict censorship, and thus didn’t publicise the number of people who were dying of the infection within their borders. Spain was an anomaly; it wasn’t censored to the same degree and spoke freely of its deaths. Thus, the illness came to be known as Spanish Flu.
The pandemic, which had first appeared in American barracks, crossed the Atlantic and infected Europe, travelling north to south until it reached Africa.
From there it spread through India and China to hammer the far east. A variety of avian flu, it is thought to have infected almost half of the global population with up to 100 million fatalities. It is said to have killed more American soldiers than the number who died in battle during the First World War.
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