Part I of Kent’s The Influenza Pandemic Review

Posted: August 7th, 2013





Part I of Kent’s The Influenza Pandemic Review


The end of the First World War was marked with a devastating influenza pandemic that claimed thirty million lives worldwide. The influenza strain that plagued this period spread rapidly throughout the world defying all established understandings made on the disease. The young and old were struck by the acute strain, it confounded the governments and doctors who attempted to subdue it. Part I of Kent’s book The Influenza Pandemic gives an overview of the influenza disease including its symptoms, and an insight over the understanding of the reaction of the medical community to the pandemic. Documented evidence from medical journals, newspapers, journal entries, novels and memoirs written by medical staff and survivors, providing comparative perspectives drawn from six continents.

Kent’s discussion on the influenza pandemic is based on the episode that occurred in 1918 to 1919. At the time, World War I was drawing to a close and was established to have claimed an estimated sixteen million lives. In contrast, Kent maintains that the influenza pandemic claimed thirty million lives. A fifth of the global population was infected by the virus. In a matter of a few months, the disease had swept more lives than any other disease recorded in history. The 1918 flue strain manifested itself in the form of a mutation and was more virulent than other forms. Strangely, this virus attacked healthy and young individuals particularly 21 to 35 years old.

Kent maintains it was not possible to establish where the virus first struck. The victims who succumbed to this disease suffered tremendously. Within a matter of hours after showing the initial symptoms, the patient would then change color to blue. In certain cases, the blue skin color was so pronounced that it was difficult to determine the original skin color of the patient. The disease spread at an alarming rate, with certain state cities making it mandatory to wear masks. Causalities of the virus outnumbered the available resources to alleviate the problem. At this historical time, technology and medical development were still in their infancy. Therefore, dealing with a plight of this nature amounted to a daunting task for the worldwide governments.

In terms of history continuity, Kent places her emphasis on the influenza pandemic that occurred in 1918 to 1919. She gives an overview of the pandemic from its onset, its consequences to the point where it subsided. In this regard, Kent states that scientists suspected that the disease originated from China. Documented evidence gives an account of a company cook from a Kansas military outpost coming down with the symptoms. The cook’s condition deteriorated and had to be isolated. More soldiers from the military post came down with the same symptoms in a matter of hours. Kent gives an account of three phases as exhibited by the influenza pandemic. The second phase was the most devastating and the third phase the least as the disease subsided in late 1919.

The multiple causation concepts in Kent’s book come through several factors working in combination to affect the behavior of those affected by the influenza pandemic. The influenza pandemic had a number of factors that affected the response of the whole world in 1918 and 1919. This flu virus was in the form of an unfamiliar strain. Secondly, it could not be established where the strain originated. Scientists were only able to suspect China as its place of origin. Lack of this knowledge further complicated the processes of developing the proper course of action to quell spread of the disease. Furthermore, it was strange that this strain had a propensity of attacking the young and healthy mostly aged between twenty-one and thirty five years old. These factors are what Kent discusses as multiple causation. They had a significant influence on the doctors, patients, and governments behaved worldwide.

Kent allows the reader to understand the context of the 1918 to 1919 influenza through a detailed overview supported by sufficient and relevant evidence. She endeavors to give detailed symptoms of the disease. The reader understands that the primary symptoms included extreme headache, fever, and fatigue after contraction of the disease followed by the subsequent change in skin color to blue. Coughing was also common among the victims. Kent uses medical journals, newspapers, journal entries, novels and memoirs written by medical staff and survivors as evidence in support of her findings. She also enables the reader to understand the impact the disease had on both the infected and affected population. In this regard, an approximate five hundred million people were infected by the disease at this pandemic. An estimated thirty million people lost their lives.


The 1918 to 1919 influenza pandemic went down in history as one of the most devastating catastrophes to plague humanity. Kent does a commendable job to write a well-detailed overview on the pandemic and offers the reader an informed analysis over this historical event. I found this book interesting through the vast amount of knowledge I was able to amass from it. It would recommend this book to those who are fascinated by historical events of groundbreaking nature.



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