The Other Forgotten Pandemic: Canada and the Spanish Flu in 1920

Taylor Jackson


The 1918-19 pandemic of the Spanish flu, which killed 30 to 50 million people worldwide, has had a profound effect on the way we deal with and react to epidemics. When Canada is faced with an outbreak of the flu, SARS, or any other flu-like disease, the media and the medical community refer to the that pandemic. Although for years historians ignored or downplayed its significance (American historian Alfred Crosby called it the “forgotten pandemic”), today there are scores of publications about it. What has been left out of the historiography, however, is the return of the Spanish flu in February 1920. This “really forgotten” pandemic also killed thousands of Canadians and left tens of thousands sick. The Spanish flu return in 1920 has not only been forgotten, its existence raises questions surrounding the response of the newly-formed Federal Department of Health (created in mid-1919), as, very strangely, there is no record of the epidemic in the Departmental reports of this period.


Epidemics; Pandemics; Spanish Influenza; Influenza

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