The Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Las Vegas

John Przybys of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently visited the museum to talk to Ilana Short about the Spanish Influenza (flu) Pandemic, which swept the world in 1918-1919. Ms. Short is in charge of the museum’s photo collection and public outreach. She also creates exhibits, such as the popular touring exhibit Las Vegas Lineup.  For her latest exhibit, she worked with the museum’s librarian and curator of manuscripts, Crystal Van Dee, to share stories of how Nevadans experienced WWI. Because the Spanish Influenza was exacerbated by the devastation wrought by WWI, the exhibit curators realized there was no way they could tell this story without mentioning the flu.

According to the CDC, about 500 million people — about one-third of the planet’s population — were infected with the influenza virus during the pandemic, which killed at least 50 million worldwide and about 675,000 in the United States.

The pandemic was so deadly, the CDC adds, that life expectancy in the United States was reduced by about 12 years — to just 36.6 years for men and 42.2 years for women — from 1917 to 1918. (John Przybys, Las Vegas Review-Journal).

The full article on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website includes more details about the Spanish Influenza, which was a variant of H1n1,  as well as tips for avoiding the flu today (pro tip: get your flu shot).

The Great War: The Western Front and the Nevada Homefront is on exhibit at the museum through April 2019, with the Springs Preserve portion of the exhibit (which focuses on the Western Front) open until January 5th. For more information about the material on exhibit, including transcriptions, check out the museum’s Zib Guide.