• 2020.06.09
  • Spanish Flu
Novel coronavirus infections show no sign of being contained, but in olden times, when the compass of human activity was somewhat limited, it might have appeared on the list of infectious diseases as an endemic disease called "Wuhan flu" or "Hubei flu." But in today’s world of well-developed transport systems, in a flash, the high volume of human traffic has spread a pathogen across the world, and we have ended up with a pandemic called COVID19.

Whenever the word “pandemic” emerges, it is no exaggeration to say that the words “Spanish flu” are always mentioned along with it. The names of the places where diseases have originated have been used in disease names like "Ebola hemorrhagic fever" and "Hong Kong flu," so it wouldn’t be odd if most people thought it was a flu that emerged in Spain before spreading around the world.

But being someone who lives in Spain, permit me to give an explanation to clear the dishonor (?): the origin of the flu was not Spain. It is not yet certain where the “Spanish flu” originated, although there are hypotheses that it came from France, from the USA, and from China. The least we can say is that there has never been a hypothesis that it originated in Spain.

In fact, in the early 20th century, when the epidemic had become widespread, World War I was in full swing, countries were tightly controlling information for fear of diminishing their soldiers’ fighting spirit, and the truth about the infection situation was being kept under wraps. Spain, however, remained neutral, it did not participate in the war, it didn’t censor information as in other countries, and the infection status there was announced hour by hour, notably that the King at the time, Alfonso XIII, had contracted the disease*. This gave the international community the impression that Spain was the source of the infection, thus, it is still called the "Spanish flu."
* It has been hypothesized that it was, in fact, scarlet fever.

In the midst of growth in “Spanish flu” infections, the governor of the province of Burgos in northern Spain lost patience with the provincial citizens’ poor awareness of the problem as they continued holding festivals and making merry, and he issued an extraordinary official bulletin to urge further self-restraint. Here is the official bulletin signed by the Governor of Burgos, Andrés Alonso López, on October 4, 1918.

Extraordinary Official Bulletin of the Province of Burgos

What he warns is that “… la infección se propaga por las gotitas de saliva que despide el que habla, tose…(the infection is spread by droplets of saliva spat out when talking or coughing)…Que se abstengan, en consecuencia, de permanecer en locales cerrados, mal ventilados, donde se reúne mucha gente, como tabernas etc, cafés etc…(Therefore, you should refrain from being in closed spaces, poorly ventilated places, and places where there are large gatherings, for example, in taverns and cafes.” It’s the “3 Cs” (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact settings) avoidance requirement but from 100 years ago.

This extraordinary bulletin also reports an example of mass infection where 800 of the 1,200 residents of one of the province’s villages called Los Balbases were infected. It appears that some young people from the village went to a gathering in the neighboring village of Villaquirán then returned home and a cluster developed via the village festival.

We’ve already had a month of self-isolation in Madrid, but I’m spending these days not going out and as far as possible avoiding being infected and infecting others, and at the same time, I am grateful to the many people who support our daily lives, those who enable us to go out and buy necessities once a week without a problem, the ones who collect the garbage without fail, the electricity, the gas, the water, and, especially, those in healthcare who struggle on at the risk of losing their lives.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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