Emily Weddall was stationed in the Meath Hospital, Dublin in October 1918, during the height of the outbreak of the Spanish flu. This was the second of the three waves that traveled around the world quicker than in peace time, as it was still officially wartime. One month later the war was over but the flu epidemic had many more lives to claim before it finally dissipated in the spring of 1919.
As a trained nurse, her services were in high demand. She seemed to have an greater than average resistance to illness, and was one of the few to escape the ravages of that particularly virulent virus.
…But in 1918, as World War I approached its end, nothing could have prepared them for what was to come – the deadly Spanish Flu. Massive troop activities and a population weakened by hunger and war helped spread the disease. There was no cure for Spanish Flu, and doctors struggled to treat it. Good nursing was the only thing that helped and it was typically women that bore the brunt of trying to halt this deadly killer…https://www.hippocraticpost.com/events/nursing-during-the-1918-flu-pandemic/
As stated above good nursing was key to making the victims as comfortable as possible. Emily, who was trained by Margaret Huxley, who was like her English counterpart Florence Nightingale, revolutionised Irish nursing. Emily had some contact with the Florence Nightingale Nurses, and may have done some training with them. She was well qualified to nurse the flu victims.
http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk/data/VOLUME088-1940/page027-volume88-february1940.pdf retrieved 02/06/2014
The flu remedies offered in the newspapers, chemists and indeed on street corners, as those in desperation would try anything. Few had any effect but there was some sense in some remedies, such as the one below.
An Indian doctor, Dr. Muthu, did not so much offer a cure, maybe more of a preventative measure to prevent the virus attacking those who were still untouched. He suggested that good nutrition would build the body up, making it stronger and more resistant to the disease. He also suggested wearing masks by the sick and those attending to them. Emily would have benefited as a nurse, whether she did or not cannot be known. She avoided the disease even though she was in the midst of it as a nurse. She may have had been able to afford better nutrition than many of her times, but she like everyone else endured the same wartime stresses as everyone else. Her determined and sometimes stubborn character may have stood for her in that instance.
Belfast Telegraph 13 March 1919
There was no definite cure for the flu even today, although symptoms can be managed a lot better and much less people succumb to the virus.
“Although there is currently no medical treatment that will cure the flu, there are four medications that may shorten the course of the virus and decrease the severity of the symptoms if you begin taking them within the first 2 days of the onset of the symptoms. All of these medications reduce the ability of the influenza virus to reproduce by attacking enzymes necessary for viral replication.”
Back in 1918, as today there were over the counter medicines to help remedy the flu, but like now they could only ease the symptoms. Worse still there were many newspaper adverts that sold potions that claimed to cure the flu among many other diseases, to the sick and vulnerable.
Below are examples of cures from the time of the Spanish flu some stood the test of time and can be bought today.
Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail 07 October 1918
Coventry Evening Telegraph 18 November 1918
Belfast Telegraph 02 November 1918
This time 100 years ago World War One was in its final days, but death did not stop with the war. Something worse was on the horizon, although nobody could have imagined that in war time. An epidemic called Spanish Flu gripped the world in the winter of 1918-1919 and Ireland was no exception.
It came at a time when the world was in a weak state after four years of war, and took all by surprise. The medics were not prepared this is where Republican forces stepped in:
“Republican women in Cumann na mBan and the Citizen Army opened emergency hospitals during the epidemic”.
Emily, as a member of Cumann na mBan and a trained nurse lent her services. She found employment in the Meath Hospital and worked morning, noon and night, like everyone else with medical training. How she remained healthy is miraculous, but she did and ended up nursing her friends too.
“The influenza epidemic killed about 23,000 people in Ireland in 1918-1919”Read more
Ireland and the great flu epidemic of 1918
In June 1918 strange and unsettling reports began to filter into the newspapers about a disease that was doing the rounds. In the beginning the stories only took up a few column inches, subtle at first, then getting more sensational. At the time the First World War was still raging and most of the population were war weary. Reports of a disease was not uncommon disease spread quickly in the trenches. The first victims did not suffer too badly and most recovered within a few days. This fever was not taken too seriously at first, with reports calling anything from a poisoning to ‘strange maladies’, some reports cited it as a plague. The newspaper clipping from the Daily Mirror of June 21 1918, took a lighthearted approach to the disease;
Even if people were collapsing on the street from the virus it was still not taken as seriously as it could have. The report below from the Hull Daily Mail suggested the same, however it did revel how the virus came to England and by ship. The first reported death in the area was that of an Indian seaman, who arrived at Hull a few days previous. The report states that he contracted it after the ship docked. That is how it arrived in Ireland too, by sea when a ship docked at Cork carrying the virus.
Aberdeen Evening Express 26 June 1918
Daily Mirror 21 June 1918
Hull Daily Mail 28 June 1918