The 1918 flu pandemic was caused by the H1N1 virus from “avian origin,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus, much like what we are dealing with today with COVID-19, spread worldwide from 1918 to 1919. It killed at least 50 million people worldwide, and 675,000 in the United States.
Though it is unclear where the virus originated, it was first identified within the military in the spring of 1918 during World War I and it went on to infect an estimated 500 million people, one-third of the world’s population at the time. Those who were most at risk were people younger than 5 years old, those 20 to 40 years old and those 65 years and older. Uniquely, there was a high rate of death for healthy “young” people aged 20 to 40, with no vaccine to protect against infection and no antibiotics to treat it.
Measures, similar to today, some 100 years later, included isolation, quarantine and good hygiene, as well as the use of disinfectants and limit of public gatherings.
To date, the coronavirus has infected an estimated 216,000 and killed over 5,000 people within the United States. The predicted number of U.S. deaths is about 90,000, compared to the just under a million who have contracted it globally, with over 48,000 deaths. There are currently about 7.8 billion people in the world, meaning well under one percent of the population has had COVID-19 in the middle of the 2020 pandemic.
Currently with no vaccine to prevent the disease, the CDC recommends the public to wash their hands, cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with people who are unwell, stay home and self-isolate, and don’t touch their eyes, nose or mouth if their hands are not clean.
In 1918, there was a uniquely a high rate of death for healthy “young” people aged 20 to 40, with no vaccine to protect against infection and no antibiotics to treat it. The virus went on to infect nearly one-third of the world’s population.