The epidemic of 1918, the Spanish Flu, was popularly known as Bombay Influenza in India. It wreaked havoc of epic proportions as one-third of the world's population was infected with the disease.
Nearly 50 million people died as a result. Around 18 million were Indians among them were Indians who lost their lives to the epidemic. India suffered a significant loss of life, losing 6% of its population.
The influenza-infected World War I soldiers returning home were believed to be the source of the pandemic. The virus was an H1N1 strain with avian genes that was spread by respiratory droplets.
As a result, civilians in various regions were infected with the disease, which spread throughout the country later. By July 1918, 230 people were dying every day from the outbreak, which was threefold from the end of June.
The second wave hit India in September 1918, starting in Bombay and spreading north and south, eventually reaching Sri Lanka and the northern Indian provinces in October 1918. Bombay, the Central Provinces, and parts of Madras were the worst-affected areas in terms of severity.
The flu had even affected Mahatma Gandhi while he was in an Ashram in Gujarat.
The Spanish flu had a particularly significant effect on children under the age of five and adults aged 20 to 40. A 25-year-old was actually more likely than a 74-year-old to die from the Spanish flu.
According to official records, the severity of the epidemic resulted in a 30 percent drop in births in 1919.
The breakdown of economic and health infrastructure and the increased death toll due to the infection had a significant impact on pre-independent India and the freedom movement. Moreover, looking back at this ghastly infection from the past could help us in preparing for the aftermath of the COVID-19 infection, which is ravaging the entire country now.