On the centenary of the 1918 Spanish Flu, Unmasking Influenza examines the social and political impact on Canada during the world’s deadliest flu pandemic (more than 50 million dead worldwide and more than 50,000 dead in Canada), and sheds light on whether or not we are prepared for the next.
This dynamic story juxtaposes historical events with contemporary solutions. It is drawn from a framework of content pillars to give the past and present common context. These content pillars are Panic & Fear, Reaction, Social Impact, Indigenous Impact, Economic Impact, Vaccines, and Lasting Effects.
Within this construct the documentary explores how the Spanish Flu in 1918 rapidly spread across Canada, decimating urban, rural and Indigenous populations. And how its devastating effects revealed the limitations and inability of federal, provincial and local governments to control it. Conversely, it presents lessons learned from this pandemic, and others such as SARS and H1N1, what preparations government groups and non-governmental groups have made to protect Canadians and prevent a pandemic of equal strength from spreading.
Through interviews with scientists and experts we determine whether or not Canada is prepared. And, through archival film, stills and testimonials from historical experts, we recount how our nation and the world were not prepared to deal with such a virulent pandemic in 1918.
We’ll also lift the lid on the early development and distribution of flu vaccines in 1918 and highlight the leaps and bounds Canada has made in vaccine development (being a world leader), and how the current vaccine industry would react to various scenarios, such as flu strain mutation.
Today, the story of the world’s greatest killer in 1918 is all but forgotten by the average Canadian. The Spanish Flu has since been identified as an H1N1 virus with links to current avian and swine influenza. Scientists believe that major flu pandemics occur two to three times each century. If a similarly virulent outbreak occurred today, between 186 million and 372 million people around the world could potentially die and between 112,000 and 186,000 Canadians could perish if we are not prepared to deal with it.
Unmasking Influenza is not only a story of great tragedy, but also one of hope as it showcases how, with the odds extremely stacked against them, Canadians endured and how they would persevere today. It is also a tribute to innovation, past and present, as Canada’s scientific health community ramps up their defenses against Mother Nature at its worst.