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The Tragedy of the 1918 Flu

If you think this flu is scary, you can take a trip back to the mother of all flu pandemics in 1918.

The National Archives has posted a fascinating review of photos and documents related to that calamity, which claimed an estimated 50 million people, and sickened one fifth of the world’s population. Within months, according to the archives, the 1918 flu had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history.

The epidemic struck in two phases: First, in the spring of 1918 a mild illness called “three-day fever” appeared, claiming few lives. People got better after a few days.

That fall, however, the disease came back with a vengeance, sweeping among populations, killing some people within hours, or days.

Young adults were hit hard, along with the elderly and young children. The flu struck 25 percent of the U.S. population. As a result, in one year, the average life expectancy in the United States dropped by 12 years.

By Michael E. Ruane  |  May 1, 2009; 9:21 AM ET
Categories:  History  
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Comments

Assuming that this strain of virus follows that of the 1918 Spanish flu (the first phase being relatively mild, the second having a high mortality rate), does that give us an advantage? I mean, unlike 1918, we have the ability to develop vaccines and include them into our annual fall flu shots.

Posted by: authorofpoetry | May 1, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

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