Lessons from the 1918 Flu

Panic broke out. Doctors were kidnapped. Patients starved. Could it happen now?

The last time a new influenza virus reached pandemic levels was in 1968, but the episode was not significantly deadlier than a typical bad flu season. Few people who lived through it even knew it occurred. Still, it killed 34,000 Americans. The 1918 pandemic was far more lethal. It killed 675,000 Americans at a time when the U.S. population was 100 million. Fifty million to 100 million people perished worldwide in the 1918 pandemic, according to Nobel laureate F. Macfarlane Burnet. The flu killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years. The difference in the death...

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