As a survivor of the Asian flu, I remember 1957 vividly. Times have changed since, but there are key similarities between that crisis and the coronavirus.
I survived the Asian flu.
It is worth noting at the outset, given current concerns about the spreading coronavirus, that the overwhelming majority of my fellow sufferers also recovered from the pandemic that swept the world from 1957 and into the following year.
Such was the infection rate, however, that by the time the outbreak had run its course and a vaccine had been developed, between two and four million people around the world had died.
In Britain alone, nine million people caught the bug and 14,000 died of it. At one point, one-in-two schoolchildren in London were off sick. I was one of them.
There are similarities and differences between the two pandemics and the manner in which the public and medical and political establishments responded.
The death rate from COVID-19 might turn out to be somewhat higher than that of the Asian flu. The World Health Organisation predicts the toll in the present outbreak could range from 0.7 to 4%, depending on the quality of health-care systems.
How did the world cope in 1957?
The 1957 virus, which originated in China as a strain of the avian flu, disproportionately targeted young people along with the always more vulnerable elderly and frail.
Although widespread, the pandemic was less severe than the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which killed more people than the world war that preceded it.
The late 1950s was a very different world and a very different Britain. World War Two had ended only a dozen years before. The U.K. National Health Service, established to provide free health care to all, had yet to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Post-war London was a bomb-battered, dingy and already unhealthy place. The Great Smog of 1952, in an era when raw coal was still the primary source of domestic heating, had killed 10,000 Londoners.
People followed the news via their daily paper or the sparse bulletins of the BBC. It was The Times newspaper that first reported in April 1957 that an influenza epidemic had affected thousands in the then-British colony of Hong Kong. As it spread through Asia, a million in India were affected by June. Long before the era of mass tourism, it then rapidly swept around the world.
So, what was the international reaction and how did the world cope with the emergence of a new strain of virus to which the human population had no immunity?
I’m not sure hand sanitiser existed then.
Those of us of a certain age like to imagine we grew up at a time when Keep Calm and Carry On was more than a slogan on a coffee mug or a souvenir tea towel.
In reality, people then — as now — were concerned and even panicked by the approach of the disease and its potential impact. A 2009 brief history of the pandemic in the British Journal of General Practice quotes a contemporary medic’s complaint about “the scare stuff in the lay press”.
Then, as now, the government took steps to mitigate the crisis. Emergency funds were put aside to pay benefits to sick workers. Then, as now, experts advised the authorities to mobilise reserves of health workers and to relieve doctors of the burden of signing sick notes.
But I don’t recall anyone wearing a protective mask, and I’m not sure that hand sanitiser was even available.
The health ministry advised the public, via the radio, not to visit the doctor if they felt the flu coming on but to stay at home and take aspirin. Some hospital wards nevertheless were forced to close as staff fell ill. Up to a third of community doctors caught the bug.
‘Half the teaching staff were victims.’
One symptom among young boys was a profuse nosebleed. That’s what took me eventually by ambulance to the local emegency ward. Exciting! A kindly nurse stuffed my nostrils with bandage and after that I was on the mend.
Schools remained open. A fellow classmate — we were both 11 at the time — recalled this week: “Half the teaching staff were victims and consequently the timetable collapsed. We spent our time in mixed class groups supervised by random teachers. We were told to read and wait for symptoms.”
Apart from the health concerns, there was a fear that the pandemic could damage the fragile post-war recovery. “Setback in Production: Recession through Influenza,” ran a headline in the Manchester Guardian.
The World Bank estimated in 2008 that a future pandemic on the scale of the Asian flu might slash global GDP by around 2%.
The economic effect this time around could be as much the result of an over-reaction to the threat as of the impact of the disease itself.
People are right to be concerned about the coronavirus. But even if you catch the bug, it will almost certainly not kill you. It’s easy to say “don’t panic,” but it remains the best advice.
Keep calm. And wash your hands!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- How many people died from the Asian flu?
- Why can a pandemic hurt the economy?
- What is the difference between an epidemic and pandemic?
Harvey Morris was a foreign correspondent for Reuters, The Independent and Financial Times. He covered revolutions, wars, politics and diplomacy in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North and South America in more than 40 years as a journalist. He did on-the-ground reporting of the Iranian, Portuguese, Nicaraguan and Romanian revolutions, three Iraq wars, Argentina’s ‘dirty war’, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and two Palestinian intifadas. He has written three books on the Middle East and is co-author, with John Bulloch, of the 1992 “No Friends But the Mountains: The Tragic History of the Kurds.”
I like the first hand experience. Article comes across as authoritative.
1958 asian flu i got that and i WILL never forget>>>>>>IT WAS THE WORSE THING THAT EVER HAPPEN TO ME.
I, too, had the Asian Flu and am wondering if it perhaps gave me any immunities to COVID-19?
Thanks for your question, Connie. Here’s what our health correspondent, Maggie Fox, says: “Influenza and coronaviruses are completely different viruses. Immunity to one would not affect immunity to another.”
Thanks for reading News Decoder!
I was pregnant in 1957 when the flu came around. I was 19 years old, I had never been sick in my life, lived on a farm. The Doctor convinced me to have the vaccine. I did and it was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. I am 82 and will be 83 in 2 months. In all those years I’ve never had the flu, any flu.
I’ve read somewhere that the Asian flu bug was H2N2, a coronavirus!
It was an influenza virus. It is a variant of avian flu, not a coronavirus. More specifically it is an avian influenza A virus.
I had the Asian Flu vaccine in 1957and 58. My mother was an RN. Would that benefit the Covid-19 virus.
I had the Asian flu in ‘57. Was 15 and very sick. Always referred to it as the cold from hell.
Am now 80 and have never had the flu since!
Have had flu vaccines off and on over the years. Not too interested in this getting this COVID one.
Me too bit I survived it. Wondering as to whether or not shoukd take covid 19 vaccine…
Having had the Asian flu in October of 1958, I was a pediatric nurse at the time in London, and never having had flu since then, would I have a certain protection against COVID 19?
I was also a healthy 18yr old when I got the H2n2 Asian flu. Was REALLY crook for several weeks but recovered. Have often wondered now I’m 83 and healthy except for a heredity muscle disease called CMT
that doesn’t kill you but makes it hard to walk properly, if I would have any residual immunity to COVID 19. Still at my age I don’t really care.
I am wondering…I had it, and it was horrible. My dad had been a pharmacist’s mate, so he carried me to the bathroom for days, because I was too weak to walk. I will never forget the night it started, absolutely horrific.
Ironically, I have been susceptible to respiratory colds ever since, but none of the epidemics have touched me. I believe I had CoVID 19 early last year, with the weirdest cold I have ever had, but nothing scary at all, just a nose that ran like a tap on and off for three weeks, and feeling tired. But then I take D3, magensium citrate, and melatonin in the right dosages.
My mom and dad both caught the Asian flu. We were thinking the same thing.
Same here! I was a sophomore in College and it was the sickest I have ver been before or since.. 104 fever, unreal headache, body aches, chills, Was in sorority house at U of AZ… campus hit really hard fall of 1958 Will never forget it and I am 82!!!
I was a first year student nurse in a three year nursing school. I was vaccinated in September of 57 for Asian flu. In February of 1958 I got the flu. Temperature of 105 and a spinal cord that felt like it was on fire. Hospitalized in quarantine.
I too got the asian flu and was pregnant. Both my husband at the time and I were seriously ill with it but neither have suffered any sort of flu since and not so much as a cold.
Me too. I’m still partially deaf from a bacterial infection that presented during the viral infection. My dr came twice a day to give penicillin shots. I was 21. My stepfather had the 1918 flu and still he survived this one in 1957. My mum looked after both of us and didn’t get infected.
I caught the Asian Flu 1957 and went to bed with a headache over my entire head and did not wake up for six days! Tried to come back day before but too much severe pain in my lungs. Went back under. Awoke next afternoon completely well but weak for day or two. Have not heard of other case like mine.
I had the Asian Flu when I was 13. My sister who was 11 also had it at the same time. We both had high fevers, hallucinations, and delirium. I didn’t recognize my brother when he came in to check on me and was scared of him. The whole episode was a blur. After I got better I noticed I wasn’t hearing well. My hearing loss has worsened over the years. I’ve never been as sick again as I was then
I too had the Asian flu when I was to young to remember. I sure do remember the Hong Kong flu when I was 11. I was sure I was going to die. I only saw black and a sound like a freight train in my ears. It hurt so bad to lie in bed and couldn’t stand to even be touched. I made it through.
In 1964 I was deadly sick as a young child I remember the doctor making a house visit any brought my mom into the kitchen so I wouldn’t hear but of course when you’re sick all your senses are heightened. He said to my mother your daughter has the hong kong flu.
She’s not going to last until the morning unless you sweat the flu out of her. My temperature was way over a hundred and six and my mother did as he said she said by my bed all night and she had fur coats she had blankets and she had quilts over me she would not allow me to push them off and I was so hot and I kept crying I want to die I want to die Mom I just want to die I’m too hot. But in the morning the fever was broken and I was up and about and playing outside so I’m wondering if somebody who gets the coronavirus whether or not they should sweat it out if it’s along the same strain that’s just my thought
Same with my family. Three of us daughters and both parents. Horrible experience for us. We all had colds and flu over the years, so it provided no immunity. At least our Dr. made house calls.
I had a fever of 106 and easily half of the kids in my school had contracted that flu.
I caught both Asian Flu as a child, and HongKong Flu in my 20s. With Asian Flu it was actually spread over the 1956/57 winter. They called it gastric flu because of the severe vomiting. After 3 weeks of being very ill I developed pneumonia. Still not in hospital ! but at home, the family doctor then brought me Penicillin. The miracle medicine arrived in a small bottle and the doctor sat on my bed and told me what it cost. I quickly recovered, but wouldn’t be here now without it. I can still remember the terrifying feeling of developing pneumonia. For months afterwards, I still had strange sensations that I had had at the height of the fever. It wasn’t as contagious as Covid 19 but more dangerous, and not sparing children.
Yes…the night I got it had been a chilly, rainy day. Then my mother made canned enchiladas for dinner, which as a kid, was horrible. I told her I had a stomach ache, but she wouldn’t believe me. Then I projected vomit across the room, and she accused me of doing that on purpose. Thankfully my dad realized how sick I was and got her to stand down. I was soon unable to walk. But after I recovered, I was no longer susceptible to all the illnesses I seemed to get every winter, except bronchial colds.
I had the Asian flu. I was very sick. Should I take the corona shot?
In 2001 I was the owner of an art business on Phuket island in Thailand when the news of 911 arrived, that was enough to cause concern of a fall in tourist numbers which it did, then about a month later we had the Bali bomb which again affected the tourist industry even more so, then months later we had SARS, similar to what we have now then came another mass infection the name of which I can’t remember as I write and then the worse of all came Asian Tsunami of 26th December 2004 which truly devastated tourism in the region for about 2.5 years. My art business was on the front line of the waves that struck at 9.50 AM wiping out a very successful business, but luckily because it was Sunday morning and we were having a lie in, the waves didn’t reach our house by literally a matter of a few score metres.
Still we struggled on and there were other lesser world events until now with the coronavirus.
Will these world events ever stop, my experience is telling me these events are now a regular feature of world events and they aren’t going to stop any time soon. Maybe the Universe is telling us something, but for me, now newly retired, am hoping maybe I can find respite in Spain perhaps later this year before Brexit finally kicks in, but these days I am not holding my breath. I am currently in London and the virus panic is beginning to set in, as I can see and hear in the media.
Hopefully most of us will get through this latest world event. Good luck all!
caught the Asian flue in Nottingham and I well remember it came on me at the Nottingham Goose Fair.
My mate had to get a taxi to take me home and we had not been there many minutes. I could hardly walk and my mother put me to bed. The next morning my temperature was 104. I was delirious and can only remember the doctor who was a kind man and a specialist in ears nose and throats, saying I had got ‘it’ good and proper! after a few days I started to feel a bit better but that took some doing. I had never felt so bad in my life before or since. No wonder it killed 14000 people here in the British Isles. There was a vaccine which was developed when the death toll started to decline but it had killed 1350 people in 1957
which was the year I most probably had it.
I remember the Asian Flu well;on Friday March 6,1958 I felt fine,but next morning I was completely knocked out by the flu,the kindly family doctor was called Dr Robertson,who confirmed the symptoms,and my high temperature and prescribed antibiotics.Ans so I lay in bed semi delirious for three or four day.I was in the fourth year in Bishop Gore Grammar School in Swansea and was unable to return to school for almost three weeks.But it was ,I think, that I caught the flu the previous Saturday when I had gone with my mother to the C and A s in Swansea town centre and remember the stuffy,humid atmosphere in there,a most unhealthy experience-that’s where I caught it I’m sure.I remember reading while in bed reading John Lydgate’s poem -“To London once I bent my steps……..For Mary’s sake lhat holy Saint ,Pity the poor that would proceed,But for lack of money I could not speed. I have always associated this poem with the ‘flu ever since.
Caught Asian.flu in 1958. Lived in small Iowa town. Have no idea where I contacted someone. Very ill for 4-5 days with high fever nausea etc. very little information was available as well as no panic in America
In 1957 living in a remote area of Northern California, I caught the flu also at age eleven. I have heard that us survivors had immunity to subsequent flu outbreaks as the new flu strains had evolved from the three types of virii in the 1957 episode. Having been exposed to numerous types of flu since 1957, I have yet to contract anything. Anyone else had similar experiences?
I also had the Asian flu. I was home for two weeks and my mom sent me back to school and then I had a subsequent relapse. I have never had another flu since then even though I was a school teacher and had three children during the other pandemics. I wonder if we are Immune ? I did read that after the Hong Kong flu they had studies that did say we were immuned
I had the Asian flu as a young child and have never had another flu in my life. When people talk about the flu I have no idea what they are describing. Is there a possibility that I could have developed an immunity to all flu viruses and is there a possibility I may have an immunity to the coronavirus as well?
I was a sophomore in high school when I got the Asian flu and in Northern California where we lived there was no vaccine that I’m aware of or at least to our family because at the time we didn’t have health insurance, it wasn’t a thing then and doctors visits were rare and expensive. I was very sick for at least a week and sweated and had chills I thought would kill me. I had hallucinations and remember they thought I would die. There were many subsequent flu strains before a vaccine became available and I’m pretty sure I got them all because I worked in public and my mom was a nurse and I was sick a lot. I just got over COVID and probably didn’t get it as bad as many but was sick for 4 weeks. I am 78 years old so feel very lucky I didn’t have to go to the hospital.
yes. i had the flu in california in 1958. very ill, delirious for about three days. headache. dr made house call, said there was nothing he could do. survived but have never been that sick since.
over the years i never had flu and never had flu shots. had the moderna vaccine and became very ill with headache eye sight problems, generally very ill for ten days, coming around now but the last thing i want is to have the second moderna vaccine, i doubt i could survive because evidently the reactions are worse. i am now 82 and really do not want to put myself through the misery of last week.
I have had a similar experience to that of Marcia Chambers in that I caught the Asian ‘flu in March 1958 at 14 and have been relatively free of ‘flu ever since.
I, too, had the Asian flu as a youth and have wondered if it would give any immunity to this current outbreak of Covid-19. I cannot remember a bad siege of the flu for me over the years and I faithfully get a flu shot every October. I am hoping that the suffering, which I vividly remember, will give me some immunity to this new strain of flu. Regardless, I wash hands regularly, use hand sanitizer and stay away from large crowds.
I also had the Asian flu 1957. Along with my mom and my brother, it was bad I was 12 years old. My grandmother took care of us, she never got it but drank shots of rum….. maybe that helped?
I also do not get the flu.
I suddenly projectile vomited my morning porridge. I collapsed into a jelly with a major, major headache I can still remember and I am 73. My father scooped me up over his shoulder to remove me to my bedroom. I remember being very worried that I would be in trouble. Post war parents were an unhappy lot on the whole. They had suffered so much. I think I was actually in bed for weeks. I heard I had lost a few of my best friends. My mother read endless books to me. My eyes and head hurt too much for me to read.
It was a very horrible illness. I will never forget. I haven’t had flu since. I have been susceptible to bronchitis and endless migraines since. Handwashing and social isolation will be a way of life for me for a while.
Back to where we were …..’wash your hands and sit up, wash your hands and be ready for church, wash your hands and be ready for school, wash your hands you have just stroked the dog …..’ remember??!!
This is Joan again …. I forgot to say that I was 11 and suffered Asian flu too. I have been fairly thin since too – but that might be genetic? Be well all.
Looking at the Covid 19 data, at first glance it looks like “the elderly” are by -far the- most susceptible. On the other hand, this group seems to closely correspond to those who were alive in 1957, hence, when the Asian flu hit. Is that by chance, or has that group developed immune response the that causes the pneumonia?
This is Peter again.As well as Asian flu,perhaps we can learn something from the Spanish ‘flu of 1918?My maternal grandfather Ernie Perry had been transferred to Didcot ,having been promoted to driver from fireman on the Great Western Railway but in 1918 he contracted the Spanish ‘flu and his life was in the balance,but his lodgings were on a farm and the farmer’s wife gave him a remedy for swine fever and this saved his life.Perhaps scientists might find what ingredient or ingredients in that could be identified to provide a suitable drug to fight the present virus.
Do you have any idea what was in the remedy?
I have a lot of info on remedials on my site.
I had the Asian flu in 1957 . Traveled to Michigan and was in bed in my motel for a week . Suffered , didn’t eat finally got better and started back to Wisconsin but got sick on the way , went to a Hotel and
went to bed for several more days . Lost weight , got home had to shovel heavy snow to get into my house was a young man then . Now I am 93 and do NOT want to get this one .
I caught the Asian flu, and I have often thought if I were to get one like that again, I would not make it
I too had Asian flu in Autumn 1957. 16 years old and on my first trip in the Merchant Navy. On the way back to Hamburg from Galveston with a cargo of grain I became ill. On arrival at Hamburg I was taken to the hospital for tropical diseases where I remain ed for a couple of weeks. Since then have never contracted flu and am hoping that I have some sort of immunity to Corona virus. Time
Loved your experience you shared and appreciate your candid feelings about it…it must have been awful. I was born 10 years later but I sure do appreciate you sharing! YOU will NOT get this virus! You’ve got a couple decades left! Way to LIVE!!!??
I experienced Asian flu in Dec. 1957 about 10 days before my wedding. I experienced it again in March,1958 but less severely. I remember the headache was really awful and I was bedridden for a week or more with the first bout and a week in 1958. I have not had a serious bout of flu since.
I remember it like yesterday I had just been called up National Service and weeks later it struck,my Company was 160 strong living in old billets in Aldershot.All but myself and one other never got the virus it was are jobs to keep all the fires lit and kept on 24hrs a day, it was hard graft but we never lost a soldier.
I was doing my national service at RAF sembawang in Singapore in 1956 when the camp was completely shut down with Asian flu I had a small infection,
When I had completed my national service in September 1957 I returned to Britain the flue then was just arriving in Britain at that time I got a mild form of it again,
Hope I am now safe from this pandemic,
As I 85years old,
I will never forget the day in 1957 when we were called into the assembly hall at my school in the UK to be informed that school was closing immediately due to the large number of absentees with Asian flu. On the bus journey home I was planning with great excitement how I was going to use this unexpected holiday. Lots of fishing,bike rides and then…..that evening I began to shiver and feel ill. I spent the best part of the next 2 weeks of the school closure in bed!!!
Whilst square bashing in the RAF, I along with 66% of fellow squadron members’ went sick with the Asian Flu. I spent 2 weeks in a RAF hospital having bed baths to keep me cool. The daily message from Matron was “Drink and Widdle”. Over the years I have had very few colds and still surviving at current 81 years of age.
I wonder if, having had the Asian flu (which I had), makes one more or less vulnerable to the Coronavirus…or no difference. Does any medical expert out there have any idea?
We will ask our health correspondent, Maggie Fox.
Thanks again for your question. Here’s what our health correspondent, Maggie Fox, says: “Influenza and coronaviruses are completely different viruses. Immunity to one would not affect immunity to another.”
Keep reading News-Decoder. And keep those comments and questions coming!
Although the viruses are completely different, and may not give immunity to another, it might suggest that the body has had to fight some sort of hard flu, and would this not help in fighting a greater strain?
Apparently, the Asian flu in 1957/58 was a Virus. I was 15 years old and very, very ill with a high fever for three weeks. I was living in Germany and in high school. Since, other than a cold here and there, I never had a so called flu.
I am 78 years now and suspect that I am immune against Covid-19.
Nope! I too was 15 & had the Asian flu very badly & just spent 4 weeks with COVID. You are not immune.
I had the 1957 Asian Flu while at Indiana University.
We were isolated from everyone and it was a very bad flu!
I was sick for over three weeks.
I never got the flu again although I have had colds.
I do get a flu shot every year.
Good luck to every one of you!
Had the Asian flu in 1957 at age 11. Was in bed for a week or more only remember my mother using rubbing alcohol to control my fever which was high, has hallucinations, was screaming. After recovery was so weak I could not stand up. Have not had flu since and get flu shot every year. I usually do get light colds and coughs in the winter
I had the Asian flu in 1957 while I was in high school. I was 14 or 15. It hit me very hard and was in bed for a couple of weeks with 103 fever, severe headache and just very sick. My mom and dad did not get it thought. My mom had had the Spanish flu in 1918 and was very sick. Maybe she had some immunity. It took me 2 months to gain back my strength as this flu took everything out of me. Some years later I got the Hong Kong flu along with my husband and young daughter and baby. All four of us sick together was pure hell! This was early 1969. My husband had it so bad they almost hospitalized him. I haven’t had any flu since and sure don’t want this Coronavirus.
I also had the Asian flu. I was home from school for 2 weeks and my mom sent me back too soon. I had a relapse and lost another 2 weeks. Something I read recently about the flu alerted me. My mother was pregnant but I can’t remember if she had the flu but my baby brother was diagnosed as a blue baby when he was born and died three months later. They said that pregnant women and children were the most affected. I also read that those who survived that flu were Immuned from the Hong Kong flu. I know I never got SARS,h1n1 or any other flu again. Yes I get a flu shot every year. Maybe someday they will discover that we are Immuned from this
I had the Asian flu in winter 1957. Dr gave mean antibiotics and it turned out that I had an sljergic reaction to the drug/ a nasty rash. Had a lot of dizziness- I remember lying in bed with the room spinning . A very bad illness. My 3 roommates did not succumb. Hoping that somewhere along the way that I have built up some immunity. I as m now in my Mid-80s and don’t need that kind of illness.
I took care of my mother, father and brother all sick at same time with Asian Flu in 1958 at age 10. I never got it. I have never had a bout of any other flu. I do now get flu shots…just in case. I pray my immunity keeps hold. I do have asthma and have had bronchitis…but never a flu strain. It would be interesting if someone is doing any research with information. Those getting this flu or those who have died, whether or not they had the Asian flue. Any information on this?
I spent all 5 weeks of school summer holidays in bed suffering high temperature, delirious with hallucinations seeing a “Sputnik a on the top of the wardrobe.” My parents alternated sleeping in a deckchair next to my bed. Only my Mother was allowed in my room, wearing an overall which she left on the door knob, when she went out, I had to have my own cutlery and plate, my brothers were not allowed in the room or even to look through the door. The GP visited daily until I was on the mend, when it was time for the new school year. My parents and brothers never caught it.
I had just started an apprenticeship (remember those? 6 years) in August 1957, I caught Asian Flu and was in bed for over two weeks, felt so ill, got out of bed and fell down with weakness. Had horrendous nose bleeds, when eventually I recovered I had lost two stone (remember those?). Any person who says they’ve had flu and are better in acouple of days have never experienced “real” flu, Jeff London & Cardigan
I remember having Asian flu when I was about 8. I was so ill that even at quite a young age I have never forgotten it. I had such a high temperature was delirious and so hot it felt like I was frying. I remember being ill for quite a long time but I don’t think either of my parents had it. Unfortunately I have had flu several times during my life since then but I know that it will not give me any immunity from the Covid19 that being a completely new strain of flu. Keep well everyone we must continue with lockdown.
I’m a year younger than Harvey.
Same experience. On the third day there were only 4 out of 140 children left in my year at school.
My brother and I did not get it. Not sure why, but we were not allowed to play at the recreation ground like most other children. Many of the teachers had it. I think there were two children and one teacher who died. Some shops were closed, but only for lack of staff. Only 12 years after the war the government were not going to close everything down for a virus.
It killed mostly children then. This one’s killing mostly older people. I hope my luck lasts.
I have read all the other posts with interest as I too suffered the Asian flue in 1957 I was 11. I too spent three weeks in bed, sweating and had hallucinations. The first day I tried to get up I fainted and could not walk. It was one of the worst illnesses I have ever suffered. My younger brother was kept well away from my room and I had the doctor home at least three times. As mentioned by all the others one would hope that we have gained strong antibodies from the experience and hope that we do not catch this new coronavirus. Good luck everyone and keep well and safe. I am 74 now and still have a lot of things I want to do.
In 1957, I was 9 years old back in Cebu, Philippines when Asian Flu got me. I remembered that I had convulsion and delirium, hurting all over, it even hurts to open my eyes, sweating profusely, thrashing and had nose bleeding, too. It seemed to me I was in and out of consciousness, thought I was going to die. I cannot remember how long was it but it was a horrible nightmare for me. Whatever I went thru with the Asian Flu, gave me a high threshold of pain ever since. My dearest mother took care of me and maybe even my other siblings. I never had any flu problems anymore since then. I refused any “Flu vaccinations” when offered at the hospital that I used to work. and now as a retired nurse I will be 72 in 20 days I refuse to have any Flu shot.. Frequent good hand washing, be hydrated, eat nutritious food and keep warm all the time that we will do and make it. I believed we have built an immunity from the Asian Flu of long ago, so take heart and be positive, be optimistic and we will continue to pray for those that are afflicted to be fine and well after this pandemic crisis has passed. God bless you, all!
I had the flu in 1957. I remember 2 weeks of vomiting and not being able to keep anything down. My mother brought me ginger ale and crusty bread. I had a very high fever and I was miserable. I am now73 and have never had the flu since. I do get my flu shot every year and am protecting myself from this virus.
i and my mum had asian flu in 57 my mum was carrying my sister at the time we both were in bed for two weeks very
ill i was only five my mum had an awfull cough i did not get hong kong flu and up to now only had colds and bronchitus im now 67. hope i keep going now living in portugal
I was 19 worked for nyse gave me the vaccine got the Asiatic flu. Thought I was dying. I too have never gotten the flu only sinus infections. I am 83. I too would like to know if I am immune to cover 19. How can we find out
Thanks for your question, Theresa. Here’s what our health correspondent, Maggie Fox, says: “Influenza and coronaviruses are completely different viruses. Immunity to one would not affect immunity to another.”
i was told that when i was a baby in Chicago about 1 1/2 years old September or October 1958
i was in an oxygen tent and high fever after that i had some asthma problems
however i have never had the flu
my question is
is the time frame of my illness coincide with the time frame of the 1957 thru 58 avian flu epidemic
I had asian flu in 1957 along with my mum who was carrying my sister at the time. I was only 5 . We spent two weeks in bed and were very ill. I never got the Hong Kong in 68 and up till now have not had since except for colds and bronchitis. I am now 67 and livingin Portugal.
I also had Asian Flu when I was 5 years old in 1957. I lived in Kentucky in the United States. My uncle was a doctor and took care of me from my home. My fever was very high and I felt as if I was in a coma. It was the sickest I have ever been. I am now 67 and have never had the flu since. I wonder if we have any immunity to covid 19?
I was a victim of the “Asian Flu” of 1957 a great killer of that time. As you can read above it too originated in China. I as an Indian student was sticken by this dreadful virus in Manchester where I was at University. At that time I was a summer trainee from Owen’s. For days I lay in bed not knowing whether it was day or night. The weather was dreadful although it would have been summer. Only my old Landlady, poor thing and I were the only ones that summer in the house. My window of room on the 1st floor of the 2 storey house and looked out on the back yard. A dreary sight but I couldn’t care less. There was a coal shed as my landlady Bertha Carter used to store the coal in for the fire place. I kept my bicyle in that shed. Being about 22 yrs of age I recovered in due course. Never knew about medicines as we know now. The following year Smog struck us in Manchester which enveloped the whole of the North West of England but that’s another episode.
I had the Asian Flu when I was a child. I can certainly remember the high fever I had for a very long time. I am very curious how many people had the Asian flu. Of all of the people who had the Asian flu how many have also been victims of COVID-19?
Both my brother and I had the Asian 1957 flu. We were very sick for 2 weeks doctors even came to our house. We were living in San Mateo California. The funny thing is neither of us ever had had a flu since.
Hi, I was a new born,Dec 1957 and got this,I was told that there was no room in the hospitals in Liverpool,my dad was a G P. I was baptized over the kitchen sink as I was expected not to pull through,but did,like you. I got a lot of childhood illness in the next two years,but have never had flu. I was in bergamau,italy in December, just before Christmas eve last year,in January I was full of cold,and ended up with shingles,was this covid 19?
I had the ASIAN FLU, but I’m sure it was 1956-’57, because I was a Sophomore in H.S. and missed two weeks of GEOMETRY. You don’t miss two weeks of GEOMETRY and catch up easily. I remember having a very high fever, just burning up, and when it broke, my sheets
had to be changed every couple of hours, I was sweating that much. Felt like I had been run over by a MAC TRUCK when it was finally over. Lived in Compton, California, USA at the time.
I had both. I had the Asian flu during the 1957 pendemic when I was 17. I had the COCID-19 virus in January 2020. I was 81 in January. When I was 17 I knew dit all. I had a very high fever when I arrived at the doctor’s office. I went back to work instead of staying in bed, got strep throat and my landlady fed me broth for a week. Closing down restaurants etc. would have prevented me from doing great damage to my vocal cords. I always loved to sing but have problems with my voice and it has affected my whole life. My advice — Listen to your doctors please!!!!
I was doing Nat Service RAF, I worked at fighter command HQ billeted at RAF Stanmore Park with hundreds of other airforce personal 1956 to demon April 58 never saw nor heard of Asian Flu
Would appreciate anything regarding this information?
Thanks for your question, Connie. Here’s what our health correspondent, Maggie Fox, says: “Influenza and coronaviruses are completely different viruses. Immunity to one would not affect immunity to another.”
Thank you for reading News Decoder!
I came down with the Asian flu in the fall of 1957, along with almost the entire student body at the prep school in Vermont where I was in my junior year. I remember being assigned to the breakfast dishwashing crew for my “household” job at the time. When I was stricken it came on very suddenly and I collapsed on the floor. The school coped by renting beds and turning the assembly hall into a makeshift hospital for girls and the dining hall into one for boys, as well as hiring outside nursing help. We were also attended to by 2 local physicians. Apparently, for whatever reason these healthcare people did not sick. Most of us were quite ill for several weeks, but I don’t recall any of us dying.
I had the Asian flu of 1958 ( when I was 12) and I was wondering if that provides any immunity to coronavirus?
Thank you, Albert. Here’s what our health correspondent, Maggie Fox, says: “Influenza and coronaviruses are completely different viruses. Immunity to one would not affect immunity to another.”
A friend & myself both had Asian flu in October 1957. I can remember the metallic taste & was very sick. 20 out of a Comman room of 22 caught the virus. I have my letters home with full details! We both do not think we have had the flu since…. are we immune…? Would our blood be useful for antibodies?
Thank you, Mary Linney. Here’s what our health correspondent, Maggie Fox, says: “Influenza and coronaviruses are completely different viruses. Immunity to one would not affect immunity to another.”
I was a student nurse and hospitalised in one of the wards.
There was no plastic for aprons, it was basic nursing skills, Fluids+++. Was Paracetamol available?
Are we over reacting?
I was a freshman at Pswego State teachers college, 17 at the time. Most of the college came down with it in onw week. I was ok and was helping themedical staff, running errands and helping when no one was available. I caught it with a fever and was sent to my room to stay. The Dr. brought me my meals. I was only sick a few days. I get the flu shots and have not had any flu since then. Have had sinusitis and bronchitis. I am not taking any chances, isolated with my husband, washing hands, and waiting.
I caught what I now believe to have been the Asian Flue while on holiday In the fall of 1957 from serving in the Marines in Cyprus. I have never been so ill with fever and sickness since. I became an insulin dependant diabetic shortly after and believe this was the result of rampant antibodies developed in my system to fight off the Asian Flue.
I had the Asian flu and complimented with pneumonia at the same time in 1957. I was 7 years old at the time. I was seriously ill and many times my mom thought I would die. My father and siblings were kept away from me and no one else got it. I was sick for a very long time and afterwards received injections once a month from age 8 to 18 which I dreaded. That was also a coronavirus so I wondering if I would be immune to Covid 19.
I had the Asian flu in 1957 I was 5 years old. I was hospitalized for over 2 weeks. They did not think I would make it. I was the 1st case diagnosed in my town. I had the Swine Flu and again very I’ll. In bed for 2 weeks with a extreme fever. I have been very careful and have been fortunate not to be infected by COVID19.
I had the Asian flu, qhen l waa about 12 l was in bed for 2 weeks ..l have never had the flu or a flu shot since.
I too had the asian flu. Walked to school feeling awful then collapsed when I got there and was told to go home. How I got home I dont know but ended up going to bed with all my clothes on. My mum came home. She was s nurse and I stayed in bed for 2 weeks. Then went back to school and played in a netball match. Which we won.
I was serving in the Royal Navy in 1958. I was 20 years old and living in a suburb of Newcastle when I was diagnosed with what was later called Asin Flu. I felt Really grim with high fever general nausea. I could hardly eat and the condition lasted about 3 weeks spent in isolation and being treated by a visiting ddistict nurse. Shortly after that I contracted malaria in Kenya which wasn’t quite as bad as the Asin Flu but I suffered milder relapses for about 10 years but I’ve never suffered with standard flu since. My sole complaint now is Hay Fever, and how.
I, too, served in the RN from October 1955 through to September 1957 (National Service.) A fortnight before being released I was in RN Barracks Portsmouth when I fell to the Asian Flu. Portsmouth was my home town and I was already sleeping ashore prior to release so I just reported sick and spent three weeks at home on full pay and when I recovered I reported back to RN Barracks and was released on the same day. BUT, that pandemic was nowhere near as malicious as the current one.
Since leaving the RN I have spent most of my life as a banker in Latin America and Spain.
Were you a Pompey rating?
I too was in the Royal navy and was strangely diagnosed with Hongkong flu in Feb1988(20 yrs after the original pandemic) during basic training at Raleigh,along with five others I was hospitalized for week or so with high temp and cough I did recover and complete the training but coincidently larer contracted a terminal desease called sarcoidosis of the lung.
Had an Asian Flu shot, in1957. About a week later came down with the Asian Flu. Very sick and bedridden for a week.
As for the Spanish flu, by the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity. What ultimately brought the Asian Flu to an end? Was it the vaccine, or did it simply run its course?
Doesn,t Maggie Fox know that the socalled Asian flu was a pandemic? She describes it as a flu and therefore says you cannot compare it with the corona vurus. Up to 4 millions died during the two years it lasted. I myself had the disease in the spring of 1958., I was 17 years oldI have noe had a flu since theb, only ordinaru colds. Pleas write to med if you have something to tell. I am a Norwegian journalist and author. firstname.lastname@example.org
I had Asian flu, when I was seven years old. I can only remember, that I was frightened of the walls and furniture seeming very far away. Some years later, my Mother told me that they thought I was going to die and that the Doctor visited me every day. A nine year old girl, who lived about half a mile away, had it at the same time as me but sadly died.
Like all the comments about the Asian flu of 57, I had it with similar characteristics. High fever, body aches, and what was worse, two weeks of total misery without any effective medical tratment. I was 12, living in Santiago Chile with mymom and little brother (6year old), the three of us got the bug. My father was not infected and he took care of us. I remember we had tons of liquid all day long, most of them consisting of natural herbs infusions and chicken soup. All in all it took a month for us to get back to normal.
Because of the primitive technology available, all we could do was listen to the radio for news; but the most revealing factor, that made me realize of the severity of the situation, was the number of people infected, which made Santiago com to an almost complete stop, because around two thirds of the 2 million people living in the city, were sick.
Definitely, the Asian flu is the worst illness have experienced in my life.
After that, I had the “flu” once about 20 years ago while working on my doctorate in the US butit was nothing compared to what most people have described in this page.
I vividly remember my teacher asking me a question and although I knew the answer I could not say it. He grabbed me and lifted me up and stuck my head into the top of he blackboard. I was 12 or13 at that time. He said to me, “How stupid can you be? You can’t even answer a simple question!” He then put me back down. At that moment, my head started spinning and the room went black. This is all I remember. This memory is short but has always been with me. I don’t remember how I got home or anything afterward. I am now 75 years old. I also get the flu shot every year and have never had the flu.
The Asian pandemic was not a flu though, it was a virus. I too am hoping that after having the Asian
virus, perhaps, we have built up some immunity. However, when I hear about all the very elderly that are dying in Nursing LTC Homes and remember they were around during the Asian Virus too, I am not so certain. Therefore, I would say take precautions but don’t stop living with hope and expectation of “This too shall pass.” Hopefully before us.
I too had the Asian flu in 1957, just after school began. I was 15 and it was also just after I was baptized. I remember my sister carrying me home and, the weather was still hot. The next thing I remember is going to Church wearing a winter coat. I was on the prayer list, so I assume that I was sick for a long time. I, like others affected, also suffer from sinus, headaches, allergies, terrible nose bleeds (when I was younger), bronchitis and asthma, and also a high tolerance for pain. I have never taken a flu shot because I used to get a reaction from my allergy shots. Two years ago I did get the pneumonia shot for the first time. My Aunt was ill before me but not for a long time, my grandmother took care of her , and I assume of me also but I never was told of any one in family to get the flu. I was always referred to as the “sickly one”. I am now 78 and among the group that are susceptible to covid19 today. Pray and be safe.
Like most of the posts, I too had the Asian flu virus. I was 10 years old. I wonder if, having had that flu, I have developed some sort of immunity for the Covid19. Now I seldom get colds.
We lived in Italy at the time. I had very high fever and whatever the doctor prescribed did nothing to lower it. What I remember, as if in a dream, the doctor showing my Mom the thermometer saying “if her fever gets to this line call me immediately” she looked at me then said “doctor, if her fever gets to that line there is no time to call anyone”
My Mom had a great faith. I know she never stopped praying I’d get healed. Well! if I’m writing this it means her pleading for my life worked…but some days I wonder…I wonder about all these epidemics/pandemics why or how they start, and why a lot of them seem to come from Asia.
I too had the Asian flu and was 10 years old. I live in St Louis County. My parents didn’t get it, just me. I was in a semi-coma, but survived. Was wondering if I am immune to the Coronavirus. I also had the Asian Flu in 1961. Since 1961 I have never had the flu nor do I take a flu shot each year.
I forgot to mention that there were 5 people in my household. Two grandparents, my sister, 2 years older than me, and my Mom. No one other than me got the Asian Flu that year, nor did any of my schoolmates. So I wonder how is that possible. We lived in a small farm village and kids around my age were always together, during and after school. I guess I was the pick of the crop…lol
Same as me I caught Asian Flu when I first stated work in London in 1957/8,was so ill but had to stay in bed for 2weeks just A and B tablets every 4 hours day and night,none of my family or friends or work colleagues caught it,And I have never had flu since am I immune
my sister died with Asian flu
I was 16 when I got the Asian flu in 1957. I didn’t care if I lived or died. The Doctor came over and I looked up and he whispered something to my Dad and shook his head. I remember my Grandmother coming over and putting a mustard plaster on my chest and back. After that I started feeling better every day. Perhaps I sweated the virus out. The rest of my family nor did any of my friends get it.
I was 7 years old in 1957 when I came down with Asian Flu. I was so ill I couldn’t raise my head from the bed. I was off school for 5 weeks. I have had the flu 3 times after this so I don’t honestly think it gives any immunity. I think it is just wishful thinking on the part of the people who have had Asian flu that they will be immune to Covid.
I was at boarding school when the Asian Flu struck. I was taking notes in a biology class and suddenly became ill; when I got back to my books many weeks later my writing had gone right down the page before it stopped! The dormitories were turned into sick bays and the Sanatorium was turned over to the very few who did not get the flu/virus. Many seemed to get a second wave. My parents came and picked me up. They had to sign forms to move me. As soon as I got home i felt much better but it was a long haul back. Have not had any of the flu’s since but have had vaccine since 1976 when husband had a stroke and it was to prevent bringing infection home; and never a reaction to them. So fingers crossed.
I was 9 years old in 1958 when I was told I had the Asian Flu. I was so sick I don’t remember much other than having to miss school and not being able to take deep breaths. I was so out of breath that I could not walk long distances because I could not take deep breaths. There were so many stairs in my school I could not attend because I could not climb them without being so out of breath I could not stand up.
I had such a bad case of Pneumonia …due to my lower lobe of my left lung collapsing I spent the next few years struggling with bouts of pneumonia that in 1962 I had to have that damaged lower lobe removed. I recovered completely after that and had no other health issues until I was older and now it is hard for me to be in high altitudes and climbing stairs. I have often wondered if I had antibodies that have protected me from all the other Flu viruses. No other person in my family had the Flu and I was told I was the only child in Oklahoma City that had to have lung surgery from the flu complications.
I am now 78 and I remember being sick with the Asian flu in 1957. About all I remember is that I was in bed for 2 weeks and worried about missing school. I remember aching all over and that it hurt to even open my eyes. I don’t remember any panic in spite of the number of people contracting the disease. Between 1-4 million people world wide died of the flue and in 1968 another 2-4 million deaths were reported. Everything did not come to a halt during these times, we did not have to shelter in place, and the economy did not suffer as it has during these last few months.I’ve taught school for 44 years and never had the flu again. I’m wondering if I’m immune to covid.
I too had Asian flu. Was in bed for 2 weeks and felt terrible. Half the school was ill with it. But we just got on with life. The population in the 1950s was 1/3rd of what it is today. Just under 3 billion. And yet the death toll was high. No one ever talks and the Asian flu. We just got on with it
I was in boarding school in Italy in 1958 when the Influenza Asiatica struck. I was 11. I remember the not very large infermerie being full. No masks, no hand sanitizers. Bed were 3 to 4 feet apart. The doctor came once a day. The one nurse More often. We played cards and chess.. i remember sleeping a lot and having trouble breathing deeply. I also remember my bones being “heavy”. Nobody died. There were 175 girls 6 to 18 years in the boarding school teachers and most of the staff lived outside. I was told that 15% Of the residents had been infected. The school did not close down, nor was there ever mention of social distancing.
Experts in science and journalism are comparing the Coronavirus pandemic to both the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19 and the Great Depression of the late 1920’s to mid-1930’s. Although the Coronavirus is an international health crisis, the similarities to the Great Depression might better serve history. Many journalists and historians have written articles describing the similarities of the Coronavirus and the Great Depression. From my lone vantage point our world was one of excesses and it was time to push the reset button to start over and change the world as we know it to a kinder, simpler, more humane world. Take a look with this blog https://www.onecaregiversjourney.com/we-were-due-for-a-pandemic/ for your reference.
In 1957 I was 20 years old at RAF Seletar in Singapore. I was one of the first on the base to get Asian flue, it lasted about 3 days. But soon after I recovered loads of other airmen went down with the it, so extra sick wards had to be opened.
I had Asian flu as a 4 or 5 year old living in rural Nigeria. I don’t know if it was in 1957 or 1958 but afterwards I was told what it was and that I’d been very ill. I remember a high fever and feeling very weak and confused, and also that the white bedsheets felt cool but then seemed to crumple and uncrumple by themselves – so I suppose I was hallucinating a bit. Someone was clearing a patch of the ‘bush’ near our house and the smell of smoke kept getting into my room even though my parents had closed the window on that side. I remember seeing them both standing in the doorway once and just looking at me, and they seemed worried. When I was getting better, but still not strong, my father carried me around the garden on his shoulders to show me which plants had flowered since I was ill, including a banana palm, so I suppose I was ill long enough for some horticultural changes to have occurred in the meantime! I’ve only had a nasty bout of flu once since then, in the UK on returning from a work trip to Canada, in the winter of 1980; and didn’t get the swine flu despite looking after my daughter when she had that, which made me wonder if I had gained some immunity. I do get an annual flu jab these days now, though, and last winter was also given a pneumonia one. So far I seem to have avoided Covid-19 …. though I did have a strange, flu-like thing in January that didn’t make me anything like as ill as the Asian flu did all those years ago, but left me feeling tired and lacking energy for a couple of weeks afterwards. I did wonder later if it could have been undiagnosed Covid-19. My son recently tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies (automatically tested because he had a temporary voluntary role the local hospital) and we think he probably had it mildly in March while self-isolating here just after being in contact (in France) with someone who’d suddenly developed covid symptoms.
I appreciate responses. I am 79 and nearly died of Asian Flu when I was 15 in 1956. I did not know at the time it was such a Pandemic. Keeping my fingers crossed, I noticed that like many others, I have never had any flu since and only took 3 shots in my life and refused any more over 20 yrs ago. I always say, “as of today, I never had any flu since” Asian Flu. Actually, I do not remember my 2 sons, ages 61 and 56 getting Flu although youngest got Pneumonia at 13 mos.
I’m late to the discussion but I had the Asian flu in May of 1957. I grew up in a small town in southern USA where we usually didn’t visit the doctors unless we had something very dire. I was 19 and a new bride. My husband and I spent a miserable week in bed and when one felt a little better, the other one went to the kitchen and opened cans of soup or some such. I also never had flu since.
Kind of burst my bubble when someone pointed pout that we’re now all in the group most likely to succumb.
I had the Hong Kong flu in 1957 I was 7 and in the hospital for a month My mom sat at my bed side with me packed in ice I would come in and out of consciousness my fever got as high as106 degrees I have never had the flu or a cold since never take a flu shot and I have a very high tolerance to pain I will be 71 in February.
I was in Biology class at boarding school, taking notes when it suddenly struck out of nowhere. I was taken out of class to bed – there were so many ill that the dormitories were full of sick children and the lessons for the few who were not sick took place in the San. Many were having a second bout and my aunt and uncle (guardians) came to get me and took my home. They had to sign a special form to get permission to move me. Once home it seemed I started to recover quite quickly but then I do not remember the worst bits! When I got back to school eventually I opened my Biology note book and saw my writing going down at an angle and off the page !!
I am 88 years young. Contracted the Asian flu in late September of 1957 while stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia. I was sick in bed for about a week but was not sick enough to be hospitalized. I recovered and don’t remember having any serious after effects. However, I do remember that a few staff doctors and nurses were more seriously affected and had to be medically discharged from the navy. I have just received the first Moderna vaccination. So far the only after effect is a slightly sore injection site that disappeared 5 days after receiving the shot. Even though COVID-19 is a different virus than the Asian flu virus, I have wondered like many of others whether having had the Asian flue gives us at least a partial immunity to the COVID-19 virus. Wishing good health and safety for all. Captain J.
A fascinating article.
I was also eleven at the time and had six months off school.
I was listening a couple of evenings ago to a piece on the BBC about kids with long covid.
They described how I felt in 1957-8 to a tee! So was there a long Asian flu?
I was a very sickly child, who failed to thrive and it was only in 1997, that the problem was found. I was diagnosed as coeliac and now on a long-term gluten-free diet, I am a lot healthier.
There is evidence, that coeliacs on a long-term gluten-free diet have a very strong immune system, so was my immune system total crap in the 1950s and I couldn’t shake off the flu?
Certainly, there is evidence from the University of Padua in Italy, that coeliacs on a long-term gluten-free diet have no extra risk from the covids. But as none of my coeliac friends have had a severe dose of the virus, we may have our own personal elite immune system protecting us.
I’ve now had the AZ vaccine, so hopefully I’m through the Covids.
I had it 8 years old and I swear an Angel told me I’d break the fever. I did and my mum was so shocked I wanted to go play she called the doctor . He cane and took one look at me and said I’d never get the like of that again. I am 67 and never had a flu since then. It gives a lot of immunity and to the 1918 flu as well. Hi
I was vaccinated in 1958 when I was 18. I was sick for a week but didn’t get the Asian flu. Now, I have been with three of my family members from the beginning and end of their illnesses, at different times, and haven’t gotten the Covid virus and that was before I got my two shots and booster. My son-in-law thinks that maybe I am immune from my vaccination in 1958. Could this be true? But I still take precautions and wear my mask.
YESSSSS………..It was the worst !!!!!!!!!!!!
I caught it in 1971 and was really ill vomitting fever cold shivers I was 14 at the time stayed in bedroom for about 10 days, weak afterwards, horrible
I didn’t have an Asian flu vaccine, I had the Asian flu. I always thought that if got sick like that again, I wouldn’t make it.