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Varia Historia

Print version ISSN 0104-8775On-line version ISSN 1982-4343


ENGBERG, Elisabeth. Invisible flu: community response to the 1918-1920 flu pandemic in the rural areas of north Sweden. Varia hist. [online]. 2009, vol.25, n.42, pp.429-456. ISSN 0104-8775.

Throughout human history, recurrent influenza pandemics have affected individuals and societies all over the world. Yet the social responses have varied with time and space. This article discusses society's response to the Spanish influenza of 1918-1920 in northern rural Sweden, focusing on measures taken by local communities to meet the advancing pandemic. In the five studied rural communities, the official response was sparse and reactive, and the presence of pandemic influenza is almost invisible in the municipal records. Potentially preventive measures, such as school closures and bans on public gatherings, were used inadequately and introduced far too late to be effective. The current struggle with wartime hardship, food crisis and a strained economy, an insufficient public health administration, a national preventive policy primarily aimed at the prevention of cholera, and the continued use of traditional methods to deal with crises in society are suggested as some explanations for local authorities' apparent inertia during the Spanish influenza.

Keywords : pandemic influenza; social response; rural areas.

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