Counting the ill and the dead
in Stacking the coffins
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This chapter explores the death statistics collected by the registrar general for Ireland on the influenza, and explains how the work of the RG is based on accepted international disease classifications. The statistics are, by the RG’s and the LGB’s admission, incomplete, as doctors were too busy treating the ill to document all the dead. But as they are, they indicate that this influenza officially killed 20,057, and made many more ill. They permit an analysis of the dead by age, gender, county, and by week, and in Dublin by social class and occupation. So we can see that those most likely to die were either children under the age of five, or young adults, between 20 and 35; with both groups the key risk factor seemed to be what job supported the family, rather than social class. If the breadwinner worked with the public, they had a higher chance of dying relative to other occupations within their class. So bankers, military personnel, the police, shopkeepers, priests and clergy, medical workers, postman, prison warders, and hawkers were the most likely to die within the four classes used by the RG, whereas domestic service was a surprisingly protected job.

Stacking the coffins

Influenza, war and revolution in Ireland, 1918–19

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