Influenza Pandemic of 1918
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide. It has been cited as one of the most devastating epidemics in history — its toll surpassing the number of people killed in WWI and the Black Death Plague outbreak of 1347 to 1351. In America, the flu first appeared at a Kansas army camp in March 1918, traveled with the soldiers to the battlefields of Europe, then returned in a new wave of infection in September. More than 28% of Americans were infected with influenza and 600,000 died — suffocating as their lungs filled with fluid. As the numbers of patients soared, medical personnel and facilities were overwhelmed and emergency tent hospitals, such as the one seen above, were established in many cities. At the height of the epidemic, the death rate was so high that a nationwide shortage of gravediggers and caskets resulted. While the terrifying epidemic continued into 1919, the number of deaths began to decline in November 1918, as the number of susceptible people dwindled.
Photo: Library of Congress