Looking Back: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Michigan: Part 2

On a world wide view, the flu pandemic of 1918 had 500 million cases, fully one-third of the people in the world. Today’s equivalent would be around 2 billion. 50 million sufferers died from the pandemic, 650,000 in the U.S. Sad to say, we may approach such numbers in 2020.

Fewer American servicemen died in combat during World War I than succumbed to influenza..

Turning to our Wolverine State, the death toll from October 1918 to April 1919 reached an awful 15,000.

Chillingly, the ages with the highest rate of death were those from 20 to 29 years old. Most previous and subsequent flu’s have taken the youngest and the oldest in higher greater numbers than the 1918 pandemic.

As a telling statistic on the effect of the influenza asault, the age people were expected to live in the nationin 1918 fell by a whopping 12 years, down to 36.6/42.2 years for men/women. Those numbers were 78.9/82.3 in January of 2020.

Making the pandemic of an especially strong flu strain even worse, was the situation in the world and the county. As the First World War wound down, a never-before-seen movement of people, both troops and civilians, spread the virus at an alarming rate. Adding to the death toll was the less healthy than normal European peoples, after suffering through the war.

On a longer view, the success of the Industrial Revolution in the western world, had led to situations of crowded urbanization replete with pollution, lack of clean water by the early years of the 20th century. The lack of medical professionals to combat the silent killer of a century ago also fueled the flu’s effect.

“1918 Influenza Epidemic Site” by russellstreet is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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