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FACT OR FICTION: 1918 flu deadly second wave

Updated: Apr. 22, 2020 at 5:52 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A picture circulating on Facebook says in 1918, people coming out of isolation too soon caused a second wave of deaths during that flu pandemic.

While there was a second and extremely deadly wave of the influenza outbreak, there were many contributing factors.

According to this timeline from the Centers for Disease Control, about a year after the U.S. entered WWI, outbreaks of flu-like illness were first detected in our country. It appeared first at a military camp in Kansas.

The CDC says between September and November 1918, "a second wave of flu peaks in the United States. This second wave is highly fatal, and responsible for most of the deaths attributed to the pandemic."

An estimated 195,000 Americans died from the virus in October alone.

The currently circulating Facebook post claims that resurgence was because "people grew sick of social distancing measures."

It's true people were openly celebrating Armistice Day which marked the end of the war in November 1918.

But the second wave was even more impacted by soldiers coming home in mass numbers.

There were also severe nursing shortages and a failure to use trained African American nurses, the CDC said.

A third wave in early 1919 killed many more people. Even President Woodraw Wilson collapsed in Paris from what historians now believe was symptoms of influenza.

In the end, the pandemic caused 50 million deaths worldwide; 675,000 of those were in the U.S.

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