Topic: [The Guardian] The big picture: spreading the message about the 1918 pandemic  (Read 305 times)

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The big picture: spreading the message about the 1918 pandemic

A group of Californians keen to extol the importance of face masks during the deadly Spanish flu outbreak

This picture was taken in California in 1918, during the second wave of the Spanish flu pandemic that killed more than 50 million people around the world. In an effort to curb the spread of the disease, some states quarantined citizens; others made the wearing of face masks mandatory, at the same time as shutting down “all places of amusement”. According to a law passed in San Francisco in October of that year, on the day that state-wide infections passed 50,000, anyone seen not wearing a gauze face covering was subject to fines that ranged from $5 to $100 and the possibility of 10 days’ imprisonment.

Official advice insisted: “Wear a mask and save your life! A mask is 99% proof against influenza”. This was supported by advertising campaigns and jingles: “Obey the laws and wear the gauze. Protect your jaws from septic paws.” The people in this photograph were either a part of that campaign, or – carrying a sign reading: “Wear a mask or go to jail” – particularly keen supporters of it.

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