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By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Will Stoutamire calls it the forgotten World War I story.
From 1918-19, roughly one-third of the world’s population was infected with a deadly flu virus that killed at least 50 million people, including about 675,000 people in the United States.
The influenza pandemic, one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in recorded history, was fueled by massive troop movements and a lack of communication with the public. Without flu vaccines, the infectious disease was difficult to contain.
“The influenza pandemic itself killed three times as many people as the entirety of World War I,” said Stoutamire, who is director of the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
The museum is hosting an event 6 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 29) that looks back at this “forgotten” story on its 100th anniversary. “Influenza on the Plains, 1918-2018” will explore the pandemic’s impact on the Midwest, as well as its influence on literature and modern medicine.
The interdisciplinary presentation features five speakers from UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center who will share their research on the topic and discuss modern-day connections. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and share personal stories.
Admission is free and open to the public.
The event, sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta and the UNK Department of History, is part of a new “Frank Conversations” series that brings scholars and community members together to discuss various topics of interest and their historical significance.
“There’s a lot we can learn from the choices people made in the past,” Stoutamire said.
INFLUENZA ON THE PLAINS
“Influenza on the Plains,” moderated by UNK assistant history professor David Vail, will include the following presenters:
- “The Great Influenza on the Great Plains,” Jeff Wells, UNK associate history professor
- “Influenza in Indigenous Communities Across the Great Plains, 1918-19,” Chris Steinke, UNK assistant history professor
- “‘Voices Singing Out of Empty Cisterns’: Modernist Writers and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918,” Annarose Steinke, UNK assistant English professor
- “The Biology of the Spanish Flu: Why was it so Lethal?” Julie Shaffer, UNK biology professor
- “Immunizations: Past to Present,” Cathrin Carithers, UNMC clinical associate professor