Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I

By Keeling, Arlene W. | Nursing History Review, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I


Keeling, Arlene W., Nursing History Review


Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I By Carol R. Byerly (New York: New York University Press, 2005) (272 pages; $65.00 cloth; $20.00 paper)

Fever of War is a compelling history of the intersection of pandemic influenza with America's participation in World War I. Using numerous primary sources and analyzing the data in relation to the published literature on the topic, Carol Byerly addresses one aspect of the global disaster-the impact the influenza pandemic had on the American military during the war. In doing this, she provides new insight into the reasons why this pandemic has long been ignored by historians.

The well-written prologue immediately draws the reader into the story of the pandemic and army medical officer Ward J. McNeal's role in understanding and combating the dreadful disease. Byerly then graphically recounts the spread of the deadly influenza virus from Kansas to Boston and along the northeastern seaboard. She then follows its transmission to the European theater of the Great War, where she details the havoc wrought by the flu in the military, particularly noting its devastating impact on soldiers' morale. In addition, Byerly documents the military physicians' overly optimistic view of the ability of scientific medicine to control disease and their ultimate failure in this regard.

Byerly's research demonstrates how the influenza epidemic was inextricably linked to the war, providing a concise description of the intersection of the flu with the German military offensive in the spring of 1918 (pp. 69-70). It also demonstrates how army medical officers, occupying a unique position between the government and its citizenry, had two responsibilities that were sometimes in conflict: they were to implement the administration's war aims while simultaneously protecting the health of the enlisted men and their officers.

Particularly noteworthy is Byerly's discussion of racial and gender discrimination in the American Army medical corps (pp. 29-31). Her discussion of women and black physicians' struggles for opportunity to serve their country is particularly interesting. She demonstrates once again the importance of race and gender in the history of American medicine.

What is largely missing from this account is attention to nurses and their role in the pandemic. Little attention is paid to the major role that nurses had in keeping patients alive when there was no effective cure for influenza and there were no antibiotics for the subsequent pneumonia that killed thousands of men, although the author does state that "Physicians and nurses alike knew that traditional nursing care-warmth, good food, bed rest-provided the best and only effective treatment for influenza and a preventive against pneumonia.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?