Covid-19 has claimed over 675,000 lives in the United States, a number comparable with a century ago’s deadly flu pandemic that killed over 650,000 Americans. The population of the US is now four times higher than it was a century ago, meaning countless more people died of the flu. But it still might be considered worse than the 1918 flu because we could have prevented numerous deaths if we had vaccinated people today.
Scientists also believe that by infecting people repeatedly, the virus could become a mild seasonal bug like the common cold. The same thing happened to the Spanish flu. However, for COVID-19 we have not reached that point yet. Scientists hope that as humans are exposed to this virus more often, our bodies will build up immunity to it over time.
What was the 1918-19 flu pandemic, and how did it affect health?
The 1918-19 flu pandemic (sometimes known as the Spanish flu) was a worldwide epidemic of influenza (flu) that killed more than 50 million people. You’re probably already familiar with the Spanish flu, just in case you’re reading this at work. Its name, however, is a bit of a misnomer. While it’s commonly referred to as the “Spanish flu” because it emerged out of Spain during World War I, it was actually an influenza A virus that swept across North America and Europe during the first three months of 1918. Within 2 months, the pandemic had spread throughout most of the world – except for Africa and Antarctica.
The widespread occurrence of influenza at that time was due to a confluence of events that converged over decades. These included an increase in world population, advances in medical science and technology, poor standards of personal hygiene, international migration, crowded urban living conditions, and weak government surveillance.