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A third of the world’s population were infected: here’s how the diarists recorded 1918 Spanish flu

Extracts from Virginia Woolf to Guillaume Apollinaire

By Ian Irvine  

Egon Schiele’s unfinished family portrait. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

It wasn’t particularly Spanish, but the name stuck when in May 1918 the Spanish king, the prime minister and his entire cabinet came down with it. To maintain morale, wartime censorship minimised early reports in belligerent countries, but newspapers were free to report on neutral Spain. It came in two phases. In late spring it appeared without warning. Few deaths were reported and most victims recovered after a few days. When it resurfaced in autumn, it was far more severe. A third…

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