INTRODUCTION AND AIM: The Spanish flu reached Sweden in June 1918, and at least one-third of the population (then 5.8 million) became infected. Some 34,500 persons (5.9 per 1,000 people) died from influenza during the first year of the pandemic (when acute pneumonia is included, the number of deaths rose to 7.1 per 1,000 people). In this historical look back at the pandemic, our aim was to review the epidemiological impact on the Swedish county of Uppsala, the clinical outcomes and the economic impact on the regional hospital; a relevant backgound to consider the impact of a future virulent pandemic. We also focused on how the pandemic was perceived by the medical community and by health care authorities.
METHODS: Health care reports, statistics, daily newspapers, medical journals, and records of patients treated for influenza at the Uppsala Academic Hospital from July 1918 to June 1919 were included in our review.
RESULTS: An influenza related mortality rate of 693 persons (5.1 per 1,000 people) was reported in the Uppsala region from 1918-1919; from July 1918 to June 1919, 384 patients were treated for influenza at the Uppsala Academic Hospital. The first wave peaked in November 1918 with case fatality rates up to 30%; a second wave peaked in April 1919 with a lower rate of mortality. Of the patients treated, a total of 66 died. Of these, 60% were 20-29 years of age, and 85% were less than 40 years old. Autopsy reports revealed pneumonia in 89% of the cases; among these, 47% were hemorrhagic, 18% were bilateral, and 45% had additional extrapulmonary organ involvement. Signs of severe viral disease were documented, but secondary bacterial disease was the primary cause of death in the majority of cases.
CONCLUSION: The epidemiologic and pathologic results were in accordance with other publications of this time period. The costs of running the hospital doubled from 1917 to 1920 and then reversed by 45%. Today, an influenza pandemic of the same virulence would paralyze health care systems and result in extremely high financial costs and rates of mortality.
2014. Vol. 4, 21528- p.