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April 30, 2020

Burlington County woman who survived 1918 Spanish flu pandemic dies of COVID-19 complications

The New Jersey centenarian was about 3-years-old when the influenza outbreak that killed 675,000 Americans struck the region

A Lumberton, New Jersey, woman who survived the 1918 Spanish flu has died from coronavirus complications, Burlington County health officials announced Wednesday. 

The woman was 105 years old, and she was not identified by name in the county's daily report on COVID-19 cases and deaths. She is the first centenarian to die in Burlington County, the Courier Post reported. 

At the time of the Spanish flu outbreak, which began in 1918 and infected one third of the world's population, the woman would've been 3 or 4 years old. Around 675,000 U.S. residents died during the influenza outbreak, and 50 million died worldwide. 

In Philadelphia, about 12,000 deaths were linked to a World War I parade held in the city and blamed for rapidly spreading the Spanish flu among residents.

The Liberty Loan parade was held on Broad Street in Philly on Sept. 28, 1918, and 200,000 people attended. The fourth such parade, the event was fundraiser for the World War I effort. Crowds gathered to see bayonet drills, howitzers pulled by horse-drawn carriages and military plane fly overhead. 

Meanwhile, across the river, Camden, New Jersey, had thousands of flu patients. By the weekend after the Liberty Loan parade, Philadelphia officials were reporting just 39, but that number would explode in the coming days and weeks.

The infection spread so rapidly among city residents that hospitals were overwhelmed. There were reports that doctors, exhausted from working nonstop, fell asleep on the job and mass graves dug to handle the overflow of bodies from the morgue.

In the current pandemic, Burlington County has reported 121 deaths to COVID-19. Ten people died Wednesday. Among those, six people were between the ages of 71 and 94.