Swine Flu 2009 and 1918

By Christine Kreiser
4/28/2009 • American History

Makeshift treatment area on a porch at Walter Reed Hospital during 1918 flu epidemic. Library of Congress.
Makeshift treatment area on a porch at Walter Reed Hospital during 1918 flu epidemic. Library of Congress.

The swine flu outbreak that now threatens to become a global crisis is eerily similar to the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans. Conservative estimates put the worldwide death toll at 40 million. Health services were quickly overwhelmed while the U.S. government struggled to meet its obligations to provide men and materiel for World War I. With today’s underfunded health care system and massive government debt, are we in for a repeat of 1918? American History magazine’s story “The Enemy Within” looks back at those deadly days.

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