An Onion a Day Keeps the Flu Away

By Ryan Dutchak

Nearly one hundred years ago, an outbreak of Spanish Influenza gripped the world. The influenza outbreak of 1918 was deemed the last major global epidemic,

Lethbridge was not immune to the Spanish Flu epidemic. At the end of the First World War, Canadian troops returned home and many brought the flu with them. Soldiers landed in Quebec City, then travelled by train to various destinations across the country.

Lethbridge had its first confirmed case of influenza on October 11, 1918. The epidemic lasted 106 days, finally ending in January of 1919; however, another outbreak occurred in April. Out of a population of roughly 10,000, there were 2,578 reported cases of the flu in Lethbridge alone. In total, the influenza outbreak killed 129 Lethbridgians.

During the height of the epidemic, public meetings were prohibited, local stores could not open until noon and wearing a mask outdoors became essential. Fear consumed the city. Medical facilities in Lethbridge quickly transitioned into flu containment centers. The original Isolation Hospital, built in 1907, provided medical care for locals suffering from the virus. In 1918, Lethbridge’s Dainty Private Maternity Hospital was converted into a general infirmary in order to help flu-ridden patients. A boarding housekeeper named Mrs. Andrew Maloney, who worked at the Lethbridge Research Station, fed her guest’s raw onions one to three times a day. Fascinatingly, none of Mrs. Maloney’s boarders contracted the illness.

At the end of 1918, in Canada alone, one out of six contract the illness and 52,000 died. The Spanish Influenza was no normal virus, striking down young adults between the ages of twenty and thirty. Killing 50 million people worldwide, the influenza outbreak became known as “the universal[GR1] scourge of the present century.”

 [GR1]We only have statistics in the article about how many Canadians were afflicted. It seems like a leap to quote it as a universal scourge from those numbers rather than a Canadian or a national scourge.

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