Even before the infamous 1918 “Spanish Flu” that killed millions, there was a “Russian Flu” three decades before.
The history channel reported modern transportation helped make it the first global outbreak.
From America’s vantage in 1889, the Russian influenza posed little cause for concern. So what if it had struck with a vengeance in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg that fall, infecting as much as half the population? Or that it had raged swiftly eastward across Europe, into the British Isles? Or that some of the continent’s most prominent leaders—the czar of Russia, the king of Belgium, the emperor of Germany—had fallen ill with the virus?
To Americans, it was safely over there, a vast ocean away.
But within a few months, the pandemic spread to virtually every part of the earth. Tracing its path, scientists would observe that it tended to follow the major roads, rivers and, most notably, railway lines—many of which hadn’t existed during last major pandemic in the 1840s.