The course of the epidemic

The Spanish flu came to Victoria in three waves: October 1918, January 1919, and February 1920. Surprisingly, it was the attack in 1920 that resulted in the highest month of reported cases in the city.

These figures, compiled in the Victoria Medical Health Officer’s (M.H.O.) annual reports, may be low. Many cases of Spanish Influenza among Greater Victoria residents went unreported, especially earlier in the epidemic. As Saanich Chief of Police Dryden told Council on November 5, 1918 “[I]f it were possible to get all the patients to report to the medical officer, the number of known cases would take a sudden jump.”

Colonist, November 7, 1918, p. 8.

The Victoria M.H.O.’s reports did not include deaths month-by-month; but a comparison of peak numbers of cases by month with monthly totals in the Ross Bay Cemetery death registers (searchable online by date) shows that four of the five highest months were in both measures, and the highest two in both were the same:

(Not yet square: the tallies of deaths at Ross Bay, above, and the Provincial Health Officer’s reports of deaths from Influenza or Pneumonia Following Influenza. The latter total 55 in Greater Victoria for the period July 1919 to June 1920, ostensibly lower than the previous year’s mortality, totalling 204; see How Victoria Fared.)