Coronavirus pandemic skeptics should learn from the 1918 influenza pandemic that infected 500 million people around the world and killed 50 million Updated for 2021


Updated: March 7, 2021

The world tends to forget quickly but everything that is happening now might have certainly happened in the past. About 100 years ago in 1918, the most recent deadliest pandemic of the 20th century occurred and was devastating for those who did not take the necessary precautions. At least one third of the world’s population or 500 million people got the H1N1 virus and about 50 million people died, including close to 700 thousand people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently highlighted that pandemic for us to learn from it.

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CDC said like now with the coronavirus, there was neither treatment nor vaccine and the only way to stop the spread of the virus was through social distancing, personal hygiene, isolation and quarantine.

Those who failed to implement social distancing and personal hygiene as well as isolation and quarantine paid with their lives, heavily.

CDC wrote

The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. 

In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.1918 Pandemic Video

Read about the 1918 influenza pandemic and progress made in preparedness and response.

history flu pandemic

Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood.

With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.

Read more about the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.

The Deadliest Flu: The Complete Story of the Discovery and Reconstruction of the 1918 Pandemic VirusThe 1918 H1N1 flu virus caused the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.

To better understand this deadly virus, an expert group of researchers and virus hunters set out to search for the lost 1918 virus, sequence its genome, recreate the virus in a highly safe and regulated laboratory setting at CDC, and ultimately study its secrets to better prepare for future pandemics.Additional Resources


Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on



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