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Thousands affected by influenza in Belfast
Belfast, where the earliest Irish cases were reported Photo: National Library of Ireland, L_CAB_04198

Thousands affected by influenza in Belfast

Belfast, 1 July 1918 - The influenza epidemic first reported in Spain earlier this year has arrived in Ireland.

The first cases were noticed in Belfast and so far that city is the most severely affected. One of the principal shipyards has 4,000 workers laid up, while 80 tramway workers are off duty. Arrangements are also being made to close a great many of the city’s schools for the summer holidays earlier than planned. Around 120 schools have already been closed.

The epidemic has not been confined to the north-east, however. It has spread to the midlands, to the south and to the west of the country. Athlone, Ballinasloe and Tipperary Town are among the areas that have been impacted. In Tipperary Town alone, several hundred cases have been identified.

In Dublin, two deaths from influenza have been recorded, and many schools are set to be closed on the advice of Sir Charles Cameron, head of Dublin Corporation’s public health department. The Dublin Metropolitan Police have already reported that 28 members of the B Division at the College Station are sick.

Since the initial outbreak, thought to be in Spain, the influenza has spread rapidly throughout Europe, reaching as far as North China where there are 20,000 cases.

It has been observed that the first persons to be attacked are children and then adults.

How can it be avoided?
The government are advising that there are three options available for dealing with the current outbreak: firstly, if you are showing symptoms, to go straight to bed and to remain until they pass; secondly, to take small doses of quinine, formamint, or cinnamon as preventatives; thirdly, and most preferably, the best preventative measure is to take plenty of exercise, to breathe in fresh air and avoid crowded places.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of a deadly flu pandemic which killed an estimated 50 million people and infected at least one in five of the world's population. In Ireland, 20,057 deaths were officially recorded. This explainer was produced by Hiromi Mooney and features Dr. Ide Milne.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.