25th November 1918
Spanish flu arrived on Guernsey
The so-called “Spanish” flu, which had nothing to do with Spain, hit hard on Guernsey in November and December 1918. The pandemic, which had first appeared in American barracks, crossed the Atlantic and infected Europe, travelling north to south until it reached Africa.
From there it spread through India and China to hammer the far east. A variety of avian flu, it is thought to have infected almost half of the global population with up to 100 million fatalities. It is said to have killed more American soldiers than the number who died in battle during the First World War.
Spanish flu in Guernsey
In Guernsey, 115 people died of the disease which, according to a briefing document written by the States of Guernsey (PDF), progressed so rapidly that a victim could wake up healthy in the morning but be dead before sundown. The first victim died in August of that year, and the last in April 1919.
Strict measures had to be implemented to minimise the risk of the illness spreading. The Royal Court closed most places where a large number of people might come together, including schools and places of entertainment. It also recommended that residents gargled with Thalasol, which was a disintectant manufactured in St Peter Port from local sea water.