About the Flu

In recent years, flu has caused 12,000 to 56,000 deaths annually in the U.S. The 2017-2018 flu season resulted in an estimated 80,000 deaths in the U.S., which is the most deaths since data started being collected in the 1970s. However, this number pales in comparison to the number of deaths during the 1918 flu pandemic. In the United States, the flu came in 3 waves: spring 1918, fall 1918, and winter/spring 1919. The rest of the world saw a similar pattern, although some places such as Australia delayed the impact by strict quarantines. 50-100 million people died world-wide, with up to 675,000 deaths in the U.S.

The 1918 flu was unique for three reasons:
1) it was exceptionally contagious
2) it had a high mortality rate (2.5%, which is 25 times greater than the usual mortality rate)
3) healthy 20-40 year olds were very likely to die from flu-related complications

Given that more people than usual caught the flu and more people than usual died from the flu, everyone was impacted. In the United States, schools, churches, and theaters were closed, commuters had to adjust to schedules designed to allow for minimal crowding on public transportation, and hospitals were overflowing with the ill and dead. Healthy people died within hours of the first symptoms. There were not enough workers or coffins to bury the dead, so the bodies remained stacked in morgues and elsewhere, creating public health problems. Fear permeated the nations. Even if someone managed not to get sick, their life was significantly affected.