One hundred years ago, one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in recorded history swept the globe. During the 1918 influenza (flu) pandemic an estimated 500 million people — or one-third of the world’s population — became infected with this virus, and the number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 675,000 of those deaths occurred in the United States.
The CDC says on its website that the pandemic was so severe that from 1917 to 1918, life expectancy in the United States fell by about 12 years, to 36.6 years for men and 42.2 years for women.
You can read more about the 1918 pandemic on the CDC’s website. In remembering the deadly outbreak, the federal public health agency notes that since 1918, tremendous public health advancements have been made: the world has a better understanding influenza viruses and advances have been made in influenza vaccines, treatments and preparedness planning and response.
That said, influenza viruses continue to pose one of the world’s greatest infectious disease challenges, and the risk of the next influenza pandemic is always present.
Public health experts, as well as domestic and international partners are collaborating to address remaining gaps and increase preparedness to minimize the effects of future influenza pandemics.
Visit the CDC’s website for more information on the 1918 influenza pandemic.