Parallel Presidents

Parallel Presidents

Alex Ayad

While the nation is left in suspense over President Trump’s health, it is not the first time the U.S. has had an infected president. The news of President Trump’s positive Covid-19 test echoes the events of 1919. Almost a century ago, President Wilson was infected with the Spanish Flu while in office.

The 1918 influenza also known as the “Spanish Flu” got its nickname from an unlikely source, government censorship of the media. During World War I Western countries passed legislation to keep the news quiet about the virus in order to protect the morale of the war. Spain, who was neutral in WWI, had no such media restrictions and therefore freely reported the pandemic.

Since Spain was the first country to widely report the virus, the 1918 influenza gained the nickname: “The Spanish Flu.” The influenzas origins are still debated by historians today. President Wilson contracted the virus while negotiating peace talks in Paris at the end of the war. Some argue this was a contributing factor in an exhausted Wilson’s allowance of harsh penalties on Germany during the Treaty of Versailles.

The President kept his illness a closely guarded secret, but was frequently incapacitated. Wilson’s wife, Edith Wilson, was arguably the first woman president, as she took on the role of a secret vizier to the bed ridden president. Wilson recovered, but due to the hefty tole on his health he was never the same again, he passed away only a few years later in 1924.