Video: What Was the 1918 Influenza Pandemic?

NIAID Now | October 30, 2018

A group of police officers wearing masks to protect themselves against the 1918 flu. Original image from the National Archives

In all recorded history, no single event has taken as many lives as the 1918 influenza pandemic. The “Spanish flu” swept through crowded cities, small towns, and soldiers’ camps alike, then started to fade from public consciousness as its victims either died or recovered. Like all influenza viruses, the 1918 influenza virus was particularly deadly to babies and the elderly—but this virus also killed a disproportionate number of people between the ages of 20 and 40 years.

What made the 1918 influenza pandemic so deadly? In a new video, Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, senior investigator in NIAID’s Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution Section, and Dr. David Morens, senior scientific advisor to the NIAID director, explain how the influenza virus killed its victims and what scientists have learned from reconstructing it from preserved tissue.


Want to hear more from Dr. Taubenberger about why he studies the 1918 pandemic? Watch more of NIAID Now’s interview with him here.

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