Skip to main content

Military Health System

NMHM looks back at the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ for one Maryland county

Image of Black and white image of hospital beds lined up in rows, occupied by sick people. Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas. (NCP 1603) (Photo by: NMHM.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Public Health | National Museum of Health and Medicine

The year 1918 proved to be a trying time for people overseas and at home. Still in the midst of World War I, populations were then introduced to another adversary: the “Spanish Flu.” While great medical strides had been made to prevent other deadly diseases, such as smallpox, by the time of the global outbreak of influenza in 1918, the flu virus, or H1N1, had yet to be identified.

The 1918 flu resembled a more severe cold. The symptoms included fever, pains in the head and other body parts, and fatigue. While some patients recovered, others developed more severe and deadly conditions, like pneumonia or meningitis. Perhaps the greatest threat of the 1918 flu was the contagious nature of the virus with approximately one third of the world’s population infected and an estimated 50-100 million global fatalities.

During a virtual “science café” held by the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) last month, NMHM’s Historical Collections Manager Alan Hawk discussed the rapid spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic in a case study on Montgomery County, Maryland.

In 1918, Montgomery County was transitioning from a rural farming community into a suburban area. The county had recently improved its transportation systems connecting railroads and trolley lines to Washington, D.C. for those commuting to work in the city. Less than a month after the first influenza fatality in Washington, D.C., there was an estimated 1,200 cases of influenza in Montgomery County; most cases were within five miles of the railroad or trolley lines.

As we know today, the influenza virus is easily transmitted between those in close proximity to each other, up to about six feet, making the crowded trolleys and trains a prime place for spreading the flu in 1918. This was particularly damaging to the U.S. military, as traveling military personnel often shared cramped quarters in barracks, trains, and trenches.

The devastating impact of the flu in Montgomery County and the surrounding areas drove public health officials to require the adornment of gauze masks in public, and locals to cancel events with large gatherings of people.

While a vaccine wouldn’t be developed for a few more decades, military laboratories and civilian scientists worked tirelessly in 1918 to discover the agent that caused the flu. Autopsies were performed and samples of lung tissue were forwarded to the Army Medical Museum (now NMHM) for further study and preservation. 

Along with the tissue specimens, the museum collected archival and historical materials – for example, photographs showing influenza wards like Camp Funston, Kansas, a possible ground zero for the virus in America, and medical equipment – to illustrate the devastating impact of the 1918 pandemic and the military’s medical response. 

These materials aid today’s researchers in parsing history and understanding the nature of the 1918 flu in comparison to current strains or other viruses. A virtual exhibit shows how DOD scientists used a sample of lung tissue to recreate the genetic sequence of the 1918 virus, and a new teacher’s guide compares the 1918 influenza to COVID-19. Perhaps future studies can help us identify key characteristics of the 1918 influenza pandemic and why it was so deadly.

For those interested in accessing the collections for research, visit the museum’s website.

You also may be interested in...

Teamwork, adaptability, service – MTFs shine during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
5/14/2021
People at screening area

MHS readiness was put to the test at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in early 2020.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health: Seeking Care with TRICARE | May | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

DHA leadership recognizes, advances 60th MDG mission

Article
5/14/2021
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place visits Travis Air Force Base

DHA leadership visit 60th Medical Group at Travis AFB.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | MHS GENESIS: The Electronic Health Record

Join Us!! Sixth Live COVID-19 Town Hall

Article
5/12/2021
Image describing today's Town Hall with Dr. Paul Scott and COL Clinton K. Murray, MD.  They are with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and will discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Advancement and Trials.

Join us for today's Town Hall with Dr. Paul Scott and COL Clinton K. Murray, MD. They are with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and will discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Advancement and Trials.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Navy nurse steps into Jacksonville community for COVID-19 vaccinations

Article
5/7/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask discussing the COVID-19 vaccine program

Navy Cmdr. Glenn “Pete” Bradford is aiding the underserved Jacksonville community in COVID-19 vaccination mission

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

DHA, HA leaders discuss MHS Transformation at AHA panel

Article
5/6/2021
Military personnel talking at a podium

Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place and Dr. Terry Adirim discussed MHS Transformation, MHS GENESIS, and highlighted the DHA’s response to COVID-19 in a virtual roundtable hosted April 12 by the American Hospital Association.

Recommended Content:

MHS GENESIS: The Electronic Health Record | Military Health System Transformation | Genesis of MHS GENESIS | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Readiness Capabilities

Nurse and Tech Week: Air Force airmen are battle-tested and ready

Article
5/6/2021
12 COVID-19 patients aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft

For the past year, Air Force nurses and medical technicians have found themselves on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 disease.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Health Care Technology | Nursing in the Military Health System | Mental Health: Seeking Care with TRICARE | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

EACH celebrates National Nurses Week with a reflection on the pandemic

Article
5/6/2021
Military health personnel inputting information into a computer

Evans Army Community Hospital celebrates National Nurses Week 2021.

Recommended Content:

Nursing in the Military Health System | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine returns to Military Health System

Article
5/4/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask and a face shield administering the COVID-19 vaccine

Doses of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine became available April 29 to those in the Military Health System eligible and authorized to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

U.S. continues sending medical supplies to India for COVID-19 fight

Article
5/3/2021
A picture of a C-5M Super Galaxy

DOD provides medical aid to India in the fight against the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

U.S. Army Medical Team Administers COVID-19 Vaccines in Guam

Article
4/29/2021
Military health personnel wearing a face mask administering the COVID-19 vaccine

Army medical professionals assist in administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to local Guamanians.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Readiness Capabilities

Military kids are resilient, but far from immune to pandemic effects

Article
4/28/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask holding up posters for Month of the Military Child

Military children are known for being resilient to constant change, but COVID-19 has affected their mental health, too.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Staying Resilient | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Join Us!! Fourth COVID-19 Townhall Update with Lt. Col. Matthew T. Swingholm!

Article
4/27/2021
Fourth MHS Town Hall announcement with image of Lt. Col. Matthew T. Swingholm, discussing the Critical Need for Blood Donations, Wednesday, April 28 at 2 p.m. ET

Join us for the MHS' Fourth COVID-19 Townhall Update with Lt. Col. Matthew T. Swingholm

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 remote patient monitoring pilot marks initial successes

Article
4/27/2021
Photo of Army Maj. Daniel Yourk

Virtual health and other digital health technologies are an essential part of care delivery going forward for all patients, and especially the most vulnerable.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

DHA’s immunization health care specialists support vaccine rollout

Article
4/26/2021
Image of military personnel getting COVID-19 vaccines ready. Click to open a larger version of the image.

The Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Health Care Division specialists were instrumental in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines to Department of Defense military medical treatment facilities around the world.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

From coast to coast, Navy personnel helping stop COVID-19 spread

Article
4/26/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask getting people ready for the COVID-19 vaccine

From coast to coast, Navy Medicine personnel are helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 15
Refine your search
Last Updated: August 23, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery