Texas Woman Dies of Coronavirus 102 Years After Her Sister Died of the Spanish Flu


The death of a 96-year-old Texas woman from coronavirus last week came more than a century after her sister succumbed to the Spanish Flu during the 1918 pandemic.

Selma Esther Ryan died of complications from coronavirus at her Austin assisted living facility on April 14, according to NBC affiliate KXAN.

It was 102 years ago that Ryan’s 5-year-old sister Esther, who she never met, died of the Spanish Flu during one of the deadliest pandemics in history, according to Ryan’s obituary.

“On April 3, I got a call from the facility that five residents, including my mother, were running a temperature,” Ryan’s daughter, Vicki Spencer, recalled to KXAN.

Ryan’s condition only worsened in the following days as coronavirus safety precautions kept Spencer and her family from being by her side.

“Over the next five days, I watched through the window as she got sicker and sicker,” Spencer told the outlet. “It was so hard to not be with her.”

“Her 96th birthday was April 11,” she added. “Our family gathered outside her window, but it was obvious that something terrible had happened.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults are more at risk of suffering serious symptoms from coronavirus, and have been advised to stay indoors and avoid crowded places to reduce their chances of exposure.

While Ryan wasn’t tested for coronavirus while she was alive, the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office reportedly confirmed she had contracted the disease after her death.

Ryan was the “epitome of a lovely lady,” and loved playing bridge, gardening, cooking and cross-stitching, according to her obituary.

In addition to Spencer, she is survived by her son Mike, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Tragically, while Ryan never met her older sister, the two are now forever linked through the circumstances of their deaths.

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed more than 50 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Unlike coronavirus, which has proven especially dangerous for older adults and those with underlying conditions, the Spanish Flu killed many healthy people and children younger than 5.

“With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly,” the CDC said on its website.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been more than 793,361 cases and 39,252 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times.

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