Why Did The 1918 Flu Pandemic Kill So Many People?


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Kath Senior Profile
Kath Senior answered
The outbreak of flu in 1918/1919 that followed the end of World War I killed a huge number of people worldwide ~ probably between 60 and 100 million. Far more than had died in the conflict.

The flu strain that cause this pandemic was a particularly nasty one and samples of it have been studied using modern techniques. Its DNA sequence is now known and its genes are being looked at to try to explain why it was so deadly. It contained proteins that destroy lung tissue very quickly ~ which could explain why people who caught flu died within days of getting the infection. They suffered lung damage and bleeding and literally drowned in their own blood.

Unlike most flu viruses, the one from 1918 targeted the fittest members of the population ~ older people and infants tended to escape. The people struck down in the largest numbers were people aged between 15 and 40 ~ those in the prime of life. One explanation for this could be that the long war had severely affected peoples health, both mental and physical and this, in combination with the very virulent nature of the viral strain, delivered a deadly double whammy.

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