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Influenza pandemic of 1918 facts for kids

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(Redirected from Spanish flu)

The Influenza pandemic of 1918 was a serious pandemic of influenza. It lasted for three years, from January 1918 to December 1920. About 500 million people were infected across the world with a population of 1.80 billion people. The pandemic spread to remote Pacific Islands and the Arctic. It killed 50 million to 100 million people— three to five percent of the world's population at the time. This means it was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

To maintain morale, wartime censors reduced reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain (United Kingdom), France, and the United States; but papers could report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII). This situation created the false impression of Spain being especially hard-hit. It also resulted in the nickname Spanish flu.

Often, influenza outbreaks kill young people, or the elderly, or those patients that are already weakened. This was not the case for the 1918 pandemic, which killed mainly healthy young adults. Modern research, using virus taken from the bodies of frozen victims, has concluded that the virus kills through a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body's immune system). The strong immune reactions of young adults ravaged the body. But, the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults caused fewer deaths among those groups.

There is not enough historical and epidemiological data to show where the pandemic started. The pandemic may be a cause of the outbreak of encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s. Another flu pandemic had happened in the 21st century that turns out to be new strain of H1N1. The outbreak began in Mexico and then the United States; spread to the world.

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