While there’s no need to panic, the possibility of another flu pandemic sweeping
throughout Hawai‘i and the world should be taken seriously. A pandemic is
a global disease outbreak that is analyzed and monitored by the World Health Organization.
The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed between 20 million and 40 million people globally,
more deaths than those from World War I. It has been cited as the most devastating
pandemic in recorded world history. It was called the “Spanish Flu”
because more than 8 million people died of the disease in that country.
In a paper submitted to the Hawaiian Journal of History in 1999, statistician Robert
Schmitt and population specialist Eleanor Nordyke said that 2,300 people in Hawai‘i
died from the 1918 influenza pandemic. The first cases on O‘ahu occurred at
the island’s military and naval bases. “Those deaths gave Hawai‘i
its fourth most fatal epidemic in recorded history,” the authors concluded.
“Largely forgotten today, the experience deserves remembrance.”