The 1918 flu pandemic is believed to have killed 50 to 100 million people
During this coronavirus outbreak, there are lessons to learn from the pandemic
Pandemic: It’s a scary word.
But the world has seen pandemics before, and worse ones, too. Consider the influenza pandemic of 1918, often referred to erroneously as the “Spanish flu.” Misconceptions about it may be fueling unfounded fears about Covid-19, and now is an especially good time to correct them.
In the pandemic of 1918, between 50 and 100 million people are thought to have died, representing as much as 5% of the world’s population. Half a billion people were infected.
Especially remarkable was the 1918 flu’s predilection for taking the lives of otherwise healthy young adults, as opposed to children and the elderly, who usually suffer the most. Some have called it the greatest pandemic in history.
The 1918 flu pandemic has been a regular subject of speculation over the last century. Historians and scientists have advanced numerous hypotheses regarding its origin, spread and consequences. As a result, many harbor misconceptions about it.
By correcting these 10 misconceptions, everyone can better understand what actually happened and help mitigate Covid-19’s toll.
1. The pandemic originated in Spain
No one believes the so-called “Spanish flu” originated in Spain.
The pandemic likely acquired this nickname because of World War I, which was in full swing at the time. The major countries involved in the war were keen to avoid encouraging their enemies, so reports of the extent of the flu were suppressed in Germany, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. By contrast, neutral Spain had no need to keep the flu under wraps. That created the false impression that Spain was bearing the brunt of the disease.
In fact, the geographic origin of the flu is debated t