The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was one of the deadliest in human history
Covid-19 has now killed as many Americans as the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic – 675,000 people.
The Spanish flu pandemic which ripped through the world after the First World War infected a third of the world’s population, killing an estimated 50 million people.
The current Covid-19 death toll stands at more than 4.6 million.
At the time of writing, the United States had recorded just over 676,000 Covid-19 deaths and over 42 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Just like in the UK though, the actual death toll is thought to be much higher.
Although incomplete records and poor science from the period make it almost impossible to know how many people died from Spanish flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the figure at 675,000.
Of course, the world’s population and that of the US were much smaller a century ago. America’s population is about three times more than it was after World War One, making the proportion of people killed by Spanish flu far greater.
But this is still a grim milestone for the country.
The US is recording an average of over 1,900 cases a day, its highest levels since March, and models are suggesting that the winter may bring a new surge in cases and potentially a further 100,000 deaths by 2022.
We’re now hitting 2,000 deaths per day and looks like COVID19 will once again become the leading cause of death on a daily basis in America. By Mon Tues this week we’ll likely exceed the number of Americans who died in the 1918-21 flu pandemic (675,000) https://t.co/ujzGGmAca3
— Prof Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) September 19, 2021
Although Spanish flu still exists today, it is no longer lethal due to immunity acquired through vaccination and infection over the years. The virus encountered too many people that were immune and also weakened through mutation. The annual flu jab protects against this strain of flu, along with many others.
Nowadays, flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans every year but is a manageable and seasonal problem.
Currently, just under 64 per cent of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine but levels vary dramatically across states. NPR reports that states like Vermont and Massachusetts have a vaccination rate of 77 per cent, compared to less than 50 per cent in places like Idaho, Mississippi and West Virginia.
There are fears that the US has failed to make the most of the warmer summer months to vaccinate more of the population. Speaking about the opportunity to vaccinate everyone before the winter, medical historian Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan said that “big pockets of American society — and, worse, their leaders — have thrown this away.”
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