Book spurs talk of Great Flu Epidemic of 1918

Feb. 18, 2008
Local News
By Virginia Kropf
Daily News Correspondent

MEDINA – Author Thomas Mullen’s book The Last Town on Earth may be fiction, but its implications are all too real for Albion historian Neil Johnson.
The book is this year’s selection for “A Tale of Three Counties,” and several local libraries have planned historical programs on the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918.
Johnson will give a lecture from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Wednesday at Swan Library.
When librarian Susie Gaylord asked him to do the program, she told him she wanted something really exciting, Johnson said.
The Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 killed about 10 percent of the population, he said.
“Today it would have been called a world-wide pandemic,” he said. “It was an extremely virulent form of flu, and it was unusual in that it didn’t affect just the young and elderly, as flu often does. It hit heavily on those in their 20s and 30s.
“Everyone was affected by it,” Johnson continued. “My parents were two who survived, and I know others from Albion who died and others who are still living who would have been 2 or 3 at the time. Everyone living today is alive because they had parents or grandparents who survived the 1918 flu epidemic.”
Johnson will talk about how the epidemic affected Albion and the danger of it recurring today.
“This is not over,” Johnson said. “The medical profession and drug companies even now are preparing for the next wave of flu.”
A severe strain of flu, such as the one which hit world-wide in 1918 to spring of 1919, does not respond to antibiotics, Johnson said. The only way to prevent such an epidemic is with vaccinations, and Johnson will hand out literature Wednesday which he researched on the Internet about an impending epidemic and what is being done to prepare for it.
Similar programs are planned at noon Feb. 27 at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia, and at 7 p.m. March 14 at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina.
Book discussions for The Last Town on Earth continue through March 12 at libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. Mullen will visit each county for a series of talks and book signings March 13 to 15.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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