n Cabo - Spanish flu, 1918–1919 “It threatens the existence of the entire race”

Volume 2018 Number 1
  • ISSN : 0379-4830


Three hundred thousand (or 6 per cent of the population) dead in six weeks; tens of thousands of wives and husbands turned into widows or widowers virtually overnight; hundreds of thousands of orphans created at a stroke… These stark statistics sum up the grim impact of the devastating epidemic of so-called Spanish flu, which raged through South Africa in October–November 1918 and again, less virulently, in August 1919. Short, sharp and savage, “Black October” (as contemporaries called it) became a synonym for the country’s worst epidemic ever, for it outdid in intensity, range and lethality every other epidemic in the subcontinent before or since.

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