Monday, October 20, 2014
Our Ancestors and Contagion Scares
My great-grandmother Alberta, known as "Albertina" by family, died of influenza in Pittsburgh on November 25, 1918. She was only 36 years old. Albertina left behind her husband and three children aged 12, 10, and 6. (Two other children had died as infants more than a decade earlier.)
As with many families, her death had a lasting impact on her children. Unable to care for them while he worked as a policeman, and I'm sure dealing with grief, my great-grandfather sent his children to live with his sister. She was 15 years older than their mother and already had 2 stepsons in the house, so I'm sure it was difficult time for everyone. Sadly, I've heard family stories that this aunt was not kind to them.
Albertina's death certificate indicates that the doctor started treating her on November 3. The length of her illness was different than some other victims. Many died within a couple of days, or just a few hours, of showing symptoms.
Millions of people died from this strain of flu, so the fear within families, neighborhoods, and entire cities and countries would have been rampant. Although the world has advanced during the last 100 years, that same type of fear is being seen with Ebola.
They say history often repeats itself, but they also say we can (and should) learn from it.