The Spanish Flu Epidemic in Latvia

From Liepāja. Since many children are now ill with measles or Spanish flu, the city school chairman has extended holidays in all Liepāja schools to October 31, on recommendation from the region’s doctors. Now classes will begin on November 1. – Dzimtenes Ziņas, October 24, 1918

The number of people suffering from the Spanish flu in Rīga, as reported by the “Rigasche Zeitung” has greatly multiplied. According to the statistics reported by doctors last week, there were 403 cases. The previous week, from October 6 to 12, there were only 74. It is understood that there are still thousands that the doctors do not know about, so it can be safely said that the illness has grown by six times or more. – Dzimtenes Ziņas, October 26, 1918

The Spanish flu epidemic, as reported by “Baltijas Ziņas”, has not stopped, but it is spreading and creating more victims. Deaths from this plague are growing and so people need to be very careful. The sick should not leave their beds and need to get help from a doctor immediately. – Dzimtenes Ziņas, October 30, 1918

These reports continue into November. The parishes mentioned in these articles are near to Nabe parish, where Doroteja and her family lived.

Umurga congregation. The Spanish flu is spreading terribly here, claiming many victims. People are lying everywhere as if in a hospital, since there are not many places that can help the sick, nor are there people to feed the animals. Autumn work is being delayed or missed, many things are left undone, and so there are many material losses as well. In many homes 2 or 3 people have died. On the Peri farm in Vainiži, 7 people (adults and children) have died; in many families the flu has killed 2 or 3 people. Few people are turning to doctors, maybe that is why the death rate is so high. All of the schools are closed. – Līdums, November 21, 1918

The new Spanish illness – flu – has been raging in Lielstraupe parish for a number of months. Even though a long time has passed, the illness is not abating, but is spreading more widely. There’s barely a person who has not suffered from this illness, excepting a few elderly people. In some houses, everyone got sick at once, so neighbours had to come to take care of animals. Many have also died from this illness and death is most common amongst those who are young and strong – as if this illness seeks them out. On some days, there are seven funerals in the Straupe cemetery. Because of this illness, the school year in the local schools was delayed. Not only has this illness affected Lielstraupe parish, but it is also raging in Sigulda, Turaida, Lēdurga and Mazstraupe parishes, as well as in Limbaži and Cēsis. – Baltijas Ziņas, November 25, 1918

In this last article, it is interesting to note the mention that some elderly people are not suffering from the illness. It has been posited that they may have had partial immunity due to exposure to the Russian flu that had struck almost 30 years earlier. While this may have been the case for some, clearly this was not the case for Doroteja, since even if she did have exposure to the earlier strain, it did not help her in this case.

Did anyone in your family die in the Spanish flu outbreak? Do you know their story? Share in comments!

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