The 1918 Spanish Influenza
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In the fall of 1918, the world came to a virtual standstill while Spanish influenza raged. In the United States, no other city suffered more than Philadelphia. The virus entered via the Philadelphia Navy Yard, arriving on a ship from Boston. As soldiers fell victim to the virus, city authorities believed the outbreak was under control and continued with plans to kick off the Fourth Liberty Loan drive with a parade September 28. After 200,000 people jammed the parade route, the virus exploded in the civilian population. For three months, hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians battled the virus, which, at the end, took over 13,000 lives. Schools, churches, saloons, and theaters closed, thirty-two emergency hospitals opened, and burying the dead became almost impossible. By November, the disease receded, and while the flu continued into the spring, its virulence decreased. As quickly and deadly as it struck Philadelphia, the influenza epidemic receded from collective memory and, largely forgotten, is barely mentioned in discussions of World War I.
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