The Spanish flu pandemic

In three devastating waves, the pandemic killed over twenty million people: more than twice the number of soldiers killed in the war.

The war led to huge developments in medical science: healthcare services everywhere were reorganised, and effective methods and new procedures were developed to treat infectious diseases. Such achievements, however, could not prevent or suppress the Spanish flu pandemic which broke out in the last year of the war, and which claimed the lives of more victims than the war itself. According to modern research, the influenza-type infection that killed at least twenty million people was caused by the virus subtype H1N1. The origins of the disease had little to do with Spain: because it was a neutral country it was the first in which the disease was reported to the public, as censorship in the belligerent countries prevented soldiers and civilians being informed about the pandemic. The Spanish flu swept across the world in successive waves from 1918 onwards. One of its final victims was our last king, Blessed Charles of Austria-Hungary, who abdicated in 1918 and died in 1922.


„No epidemic since the Black Death of the 14th century has claimed so many victims."
8 Órai Újság, January 16, 1919

„Yesterday my revered husband died. My little Otto is laid low with a fever, and is delirious. Mother shudders at my every cough. The streets are filled with the blackness of mourning armbands."
Hannah Schulle, Braunschweig, 1919



Sterilisation kit

Bandage sterilizer

(Semmelweis Medical Museum, Library and Documentation Department)

Medical cabinet with instruments and bandages Hospital stretcher and benches

(László Makai)