The doctors’ view
Medical puzzle, politics and search for cures
in Stacking the coffins
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This chapter concentrates on looks at the main arguments about the origins of Spanish influenza, which is viewed through contemporary ideas about disease founded in bacteriology, and explores the medical circles’ debate about the identification and treatment of Spanish influenza in an Irish context. Influenza was understood to be bacterial: Pfeiffer’s bacillus. As the flu spread around Ireland, various laboratories developed vaccines which were administered both as prophylaxis and as medicine, and doctors debated their efficacy. The Irish debate about identification and treatment of the Spanish influenza virus touched on many of the universal themes about Spanish influenza, the dread of some terrible disease emerging out of a terrible war, the fear of the public and the medical sphere alike as it prostrated and killed, the futile search for vaccines and treatments, and the fascination the disease held for pioneering doctors who queried the limits of their own medical knowledge and sought to improve the answers. It also looks at the ramifications of the influenza for medical politics.

Stacking the coffins

Influenza, war and revolution in Ireland, 1918–19

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