The unusual severity of 1918’s “Spanish flu” pandemic has eluded explanation for nearly a century. Unlike typical flu epidemics, most of the victims in 1918 were otherwise healthy adults that succumbed to secondary infections. Unexpectedly, children and the elderly frequently recovered. The answer may lie in the 1918 flu's evolutionary relationship to other flu strains that infected different generations in childhood.
Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.
PNAS: Genesis and pathogenesis of the 1918 pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus
The Influenza Pandemic
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Seasonal Influenza
Science Bulletins: Influenza—Jumping the Species Barrier
Science Bulletins: Survivors of 1918 Flu Still Thwart Virus
Science Bulletins: Swine Flu—Seeking Genetic Clues