In the fall of 1918, 100 soldiers died daily in Camp Devens, Mass. (Cardcow.com)
History is often presented selectively, with details left out and others augmented to generate a particular emotional response among the public for a desired outcome.
Comparing the current swine flu and its possible effects to the pandemic flu of 1918 is an example. Accounts of people dying within days or even hours upon contracting the 1918 flu are commonly reported today. The authorities are puzzled as to why the flu was so lethal, especially among those between the ages of 20 and 40, instead of the very young and the elderly.
At that time, World War I was coming to an end, and most of the victims in that age group were troops lodged together in camps, ships, or on the battlefield, under stress and in crowded conditions.
The Flu's Origin and Migration
The origin of the 1918 virus remains a mystery even though the virus and its descendants—sometimes linked with birds and pigs—have been exhaustively examined with as much exact science as we have been capable of.  Originally, the virus was thought to have come from China, but the true incubators were U.S. military camps, starting in California in December 1917. 
The flu then migrated to Fort Funston, Kan., where it appeared in early spring of 1918. The soldiers from that camp were shipped to Europe, where the flu spread. Soldiers coming back to Boston in September brought the flu to nearby Camp Devens, where the mortality rate averaged 100 deaths per day. 
Fatality Depends on Location and Treatment
The death toll of ordinary flu epidemics has remained at 1 percent, whereas in 1918, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the death toll averaged 2.5 percent. This average does not take into account different locations and treatments. In some locations in the United States, the mortality rate was 25 to 60 percent.
What were the factors accounting for the wide differences? Ohio, for instance, had 24,000 cases of the flu, with a mortality rate of 28 percent for cases treated by orthodox medicine, whereas 26,000 cases that were treated homeopathically had 1.05 percent mortality.
While some got sick in the comforts of home, our young soldiers were under triple jeopardy. Their immune systems were compromised by many vaccinations; they were treated by the orthodox medicine of the day, and conditions were very crowded in their barracks. 
Death usually occurred after bacterial pneumonia. Pneumonia bacteria are frequently lodged in the mouth and throat of people who are well, but in the weakened bodies of the soldiers, the bacteria were able to multiply and invade, causing pneumonia.
Homeopathy to the Rescue
Even with overcrowding, stress, and lack of public-health planning, homeopathic doctors could still successfully apply the principles of natural law: “Let likes be cured by likes.”
The following are some of the examples quoted by Julian Winston in his article, “Influenza—1918: Homeopathy to the Rescue” :
“ ‘In a plant of 8,000 workers, we had only one death. Gelsemium was practically the only remedy used; there was no use of either aspirin or vaccination.’ —Frank Wieland, M.D., Chicago.”
“ ‘I did not lose a single case of influenza; my death rate in the pneumonias was 2.1 percent. The salicylates, including aspirin and quinine, were almost the sole standbys of the old school, and it was a common thing to hear them speaking of losing 60 percent of their pneumonias.’—Dudley A. Williams, M.D., Providence, R.I.”
“ ‘Fifteen hundred cases were reported at the Homeopathic Medical Society of the District of Columbia with but 15 deaths. Recoveries in the National Homeopathic Hospital were 100 percent.’—E. F. Sappington, M. D., Philadelphia.”
“ ‘I have treated 1,000 cases of influenza. I have the records to show my work. I have no losses. Please give all credit to homeopathy and none to the Scotch-Irish-American!’—T. A. McCann, M.D., Dayton, Ohio.”
“H. A. Roberts, M.D., was a physician on a troop ship at the time. Another boat pulled alongside to get any spare coffins—its mortality rate was so high. On his return to port, the commander asked Roberts, ‘Used all your coffins?’ To which Roberts, who had been treating his ship with homeopathy, replied, ‘Yes, and lost not one man!’
“In the transport service, I [Roberts] had 81 cases on the way over. All recovered and were landed. Every man received homeopathic treatment. One ship lost 31 on the way.”
Was it the treatment after all that caused most of the fatalities? Homeopathy looks at the body as a microcosm. Each cell is a tiny, complete system. Symptoms are the body’s attempt to detoxify itself. Therefore, temporarily making the symptoms stronger with a homeopathic remedy is healing. Homeopathic remedies are diluted or ground (potentized) to a level beyond our ability to measure the material in molecules.
As the body endeavors to heal itself, crude or hazardous substances may be worse than nothing, especially with the flu.
Orthodox Medical Treatment
The U.S. government recommended the following medications and treatments in 1918:
· Aspirin for reducing fever.
· Calomel, a laxative.
· Seidlitz powder or Epsom salts, two more laxatives.
· Bed rest and warmth. 
However, fever is an essential defense against viruses. The practice of giving aspirin for the flu began in November 1918.  Was aspirin, then, the medication that suddenly put fatalities over the top?
Calomel, a mercury laxative, has many side effects, such as dehydration, inflammation of the gums, and dental problems, according to “American Physicians in the Nineteenth Century: From Sects to Science” by William G. Rothstein.
Of all the treatments officially recommended in 1918, the best advice was go to bed and keep warm.
There were many people who did not get the flu, including those who cared for flu victims and lost sleep from long hours of work. Shouldn’t we be studying those people to learn what enabled their immune systems to remain strong?
Now the media scares us about another pandemic. Our government may be gearing up for quarantines, enforcements of various kinds, and fines for noncompliance. The hope is that there will be no such heavy-handedness.
Many lessons were learned from 1918 and subsequent flu epidemics. Each of us should keep informed so we can use our wisdom in the face of an onslaught of misinformation and media hype.
5. New England Journal of Homeopathy, Volume 7, Number 1, 1998