Popular Science

A century ago the Spanish flu killed 50 million—and then we forgot about it

Here's what we can learn.
Spanish flu gurney patient ambulance public health medical response

The Spanish influenza struck 100 years ago this fall. It was unlikely any pandemic, before or since.


The Spanish influenza was unusual in more ways than one. There’s its universality: Between 1918 and 1919, the particularly aggressive H1N1 virus infected 1 in 3 people on planet Earth. Its severity: The flu killed approximately 50 million. And its invisibility: Today, historians often describe it as a “forgotten” pandemic.

In some ways, they’re right. There are no monuments to the victims. There are no classic works of literature inspired by the disease’s rapid advance. In other ways, though, they’re wrong. How forgotten can a pandemic be if there is an entire

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