In her diary Edie makes several references to the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. In August that year she experienced it herself but, typically for her, she made light of it. Here’s what she wrote:
9 August 1918 …. A very funny thing for about 10 days: I have felt positively ill, like influenza, with a stiff neck and left arm and nothing has done it much good – rubbing, applications, all have failed. So, I sort of settled down to calling it “chronic rheumatism” and letting it take its chance. It is like a bad toothache – mine is a good bit better now – but I can’t look sideways very well. Two days ago I met a sister on the stairs looking about 100 years old and stiff. She had it just the same, was having the day off next day and felt so seedy was going to spend it in bed. Last night I heard of another with it and another with a stiff back and another with stiff legs. I believe it is some sort of a germ going round.
Have a look at Volume 4 of Edie’s diary: http://anurseatthefront.org.uk/the-diaries-all-four-volumes/the-diaries-volume-4/. If you do a word search for ‘influenza’ you will find 8 references.
At this time, 100 years later, we all have such admiration for NHS staff and others working on the front line of the Covid19 pandemic. We often use the word unprecedented but clearly the tradition of working selflessly in very dangerous situations is not new. We cannot thank you enough.