A Historical Look at Pandemic Flu
Spanish Flu, 1918–1919
- Illness from the 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, came on quickly. Some people felt fine in the morning but died by nightfall.
- Approximately 20 percent to 40 percent of the worldwide population became ill.
- An estimated 50 million people died.
- Nearly 675,000 people died in the United States.
Asian Flu, 1957–1958
- In February 1957, a new flu virus was identified in the Far East. Immunity to this strain was rare in people younger than 65.
- Vaccine production began in late May 1957 and was available in limited supply by August 1957.
- By December, the outbreak ebbed but resurged in January of 1958.
- Although not as devastating as the 1918 pandemic, about 69,800 people in the United States died.
- The elderly had the highest rates of death.
Hong Kong Flu, 1968–1969
- In early 1968, a new flu virus was detected in Hong Kong. The first cases in the U.S. were detected as early as September 1968.
- The number of deaths between September 1968 and March 1969 was 33,800, making it the mildest flu pandemic in the 20th century.
- The flu hit hardest in December when schoolchildren were on vacation, leading to a decline in flu cases.
- Improved medical care and antibiotics effective for secondary bacterial infections were available, minimizing fatalities.
- In the spring of 2009, a new flu virus spread quickly across the U.S. and the world. The first case of H1N1 (swine flu) was diagnosed on April 15, 2009.
- By April 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began work on a vaccine. On April 26, the U.S. government declared a public health emergency.
- A total of 74 countries were affected by the pandemic.
- During the outbreak, 80 million people were vaccinated against H1N1.
- The CDC estimates that 43 million to 89 million people contracted the virus.
- There were between 8,870 and 18,300 H1N1-related deaths.