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Spanish Flu and the history of pandemic propaganda

Whether dampening reporting during the war, or running adverts for miracle cures, newspapers from the 1918 flu have a lot to teach us about how information moves in an epidemic

By Dr Harry Bennett  

The Spanish Flu pandemic—that would perhaps kill as many as 50 million people worldwide during its course—entered the consciousness of the British public relatively slowly. Without global organisations to draw attention to the outbreak, and online connections to allow the rapid transit of information around the globe, news travelled much more slowly when the ‘flu emerged in 1917.

During the early phase of the pandemic, the nature of the virus also had a role to play. The symptoms, which included bleeding from the mucus membranes—the nose, lungs, intestines etc—could sometimes result in misdiagnosis as…

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