NPR

Are We Prepared For A Killer Flu Epidemic?

An 21st century outbreak could be as nightmarish as the 1918 pandemic, which killed about 40 million. So the Gates Foundation wants to spur the development of a flu vaccine. Don't we already have one?
Patients at an Army ward in Kansas during the influenza epidemic of 1918. About 675,000 Americans died of the flu known as La Grippe. Source: NYPL/Science Source

A hundred years ago, the world was struck by a nightmare scenario.

World War I was still raging. And then a suspicious disease appeared.

In the spring of 1918, the first wave of cases wasn't all that bad. The death rate was low. But by November, the "mother of all flu pandemics" was spreading explosively across Asia, Europe and North America.

Known as "La Grippe," the new flu strain killed quickly and at a high rate, especially among soldiers in the war. "The boys were coming in with colds and a headache and they were dead within two or three days," a French nurse on November

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR4 min read
Best Albums Of 2019 (So Far)
We asked our panel of public radio writers one question: What is your favorite album of 2019 so far? There were so many ways to answer.
NPR7 min read
How Georgia Became A Surprising Bright Spot In The U.S. Solar Industry
Solar is booming in Georgia, and it's not because of state mandates supporting renewable energy or concerns about climate change. Instead, powerful market forces are driving the growth.
NPR4 min readPolitics
Analysis: The Politics Of National Humiliation In The Trump-Xi Meeting
Under the Communist Party's ideological reeducation of China's population, humiliation by foreign powers forms an emotional underpinning of the country's national identity.