"But there certainly will be another pandemic sometime in the future," says TIME medical correspondent Christine Gorman. "Although an unprecedented expansion of international travel brought on by World War I dramatically increased the impact of the 1918 outbreak, there were also lesser pandemics in 1957 and 1968." A pandemic occurs when a new strain of a virus emerges so quickly that human immune systems are caught unawares, and such outbreaks usually kill a large number of people. The first known pandemic occurred in 1580, and there have been 31 since.
Unlike in 1918, though, today the international medical community is watching the virus's every move. "There are surveillance sites all over the world studying any mutagenic shifts in the flu virus," says Gorman. "New strains are identified very quickly, and this year's vaccine is pretty closely matched with the dominant strain of flu out there." And then, of course, medical science has become more adept at diminishing the impact of the virus through treatment of more dangerous complications, such as pneumonia. Which means that we're a lot better prepared for a world war against flu than our forebears were in 1918. And hey, if you managed to read this far down, the chicken soup must be working.