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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 1643-3750

The influenza epidemic of 1889–90 in selected European cities – a picture based on the reports of two Poznań daily newspapers from the second half of the nineteenth century

Bogumiła Kempińska-Mirosławska, Agnieszka Woźniak-Kosek

Department of History of Medicine and Pharmacy, Medical University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland

Med Sci Monit 2013; 19:1131-1141

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.889469

Available online:

Published: 2013-12-10

The largest nineteenth-century epidemic of influenza, called ‘the Russian epidemic,’ arrived in Europe from the east in November and December of 1889. It was one of the first epidemics of influenza that occurred during the period of the rapid development of bacteriology. It was the first epidemic to be so widely commented on in the intensively developing daily press. Daily Polish newspapers published in Poznań, a Polish city that was then under Prussian rule, also had a share in providing information on the epidemic. Press reports not only referred to the local spread of the disease, but also discussed the situation in numerous, often distant, European cities, such as Paris, London, Vienna, and Berlin. Apart from data about where and when the illness occurred, the reports provided: descriptions of symptoms, treatment methods, data on morbidity and mortality, effect on individual people of high rank in the country, information on the activities of public authorities, and impact of the epidemic on daily life. The 1889-1890 influenza epidemic had 2 faces: the real one, discovered while being afflicted with the disease, and the media one, discovered through the information available in the press.

Keywords: Europe - epidemiology, Epidemics - history, Cities - epidemiology, History, 19th Century, Influenza, Human - history, Newspapers - history, Public Health Practice - history