The Journal of African History

Research Article

The Influenza Epidemic of 1918–19 in the Gold Coast1

K. David Pattersona1

a1 University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The Gold Coast (modern Ghana) was severely attacked by the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. The disease was introduced by shipping along the southern coast and overland across the northern frontier. As was true elsewhere on the continent, the spread of influenza was greatly facilitated by the new colonial transportation network. Quarantines and other preventive measures were futile and therapy, African or British, could do no more than alleviate symptoms. Influenza struck the majority of the population, but mortality rates varied regionally and, to some extent, by occupation. Deaths were especially numerous in the far north. The influenza epidemic killed 100,000 or more people in less than six months and was almost certainly the worst short-term demographic disaster in the history of Ghana.


1 Research for this article was supported by NIH Grant LM 02517 from the National Library of Medicine and was carried out as part of a general study of health conditions and medical care in the colonial Gold Coast.