In the US, the flu season starts late in the fall and lasts until spring. Up to 200,000 are hospitalized during this period, and over the past 30 years, about 49,000 people have died from the flu. However, these numbers are small compared to the deaths that were witnessed during the 1918 influenza flu.
The flu hit just as the world war which had killed more than 20 million people was coming to an end. However, as the world would shortly learn, the worst was yet to come.
How it began
In its first wave, the flu did not have devastating effects. People who showed symptoms of the flu were able to overcome them in a matter of days. The number of casualties the first time was meager.
The second wave hit in the fall of 1918 and was the most devastated victims passed away hours or days after developing symptoms. In one year, the average life expectancy in the US dipped by 12 years, and it was not only America that was affected. European countries like Spain were also had hit by influenza. In a short time, the flu had taken an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
Fighting the flu
Fighting the flu was very challenging. World War I had left behind a deficiency of physicians and health workers, and some of the remaining personnel were also affected by the flu.
Because of the high number of patients and risk of infection, schools, bars, theatres and other gathering places were closed. Unfortunately, the first vaccine was not available until 1940 which made it difficult to arrest the situation.
Eventually, most of the victims died of hunger since they got too weak to go and find food and no one was willing to take the risk to bring food to them.
Today, there are vaccines that curb the effects of the flu. However, the 1918 influenza was a point of reckoning for medical professionals and their preparedness towards mass infections and casualties.