In 1918, the world faced the deadliest pandemic in human history. What can the story of the so-called Spanish Flu teach us about the fight against present day crises, and how to prepare for future outbreaks? At the height of WWI, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.
But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the aftermath of Covid-19 and future pandemics looming on the horizon.
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