Covid-19 is officially the most deadly outbreak in recent American history, surpassing the estimated U.S. fatalities from the 1918 influenza pandemic.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s roughly how many died of influenza in the United States between 1918 and 1919 — along with more than 49 million people globally in the “deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.” (Coronavirus has killed nearly 4.7 million globally.)
“If you would have talked to me in 2019, I would have said I’d be surprised,” epidemiologist Stephen Kissler of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health told CNN. “But if you talked to me in probably April or May 2020, I would say I would not be surprised we’d hit this point.”
Over 100 years ago, the flu pandemic became the deadliest disease in the world and is officially the deadliest disease of the 20th century. Many scientists were hopeful at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that individuals would learn from the mistakes made in the 20th century, but that has not been the case.
Spanish Flu took an estimated 675,000 lives in the U.S. Before this, that flu pandemic was the most lethal since the United States was formed. With a 1,900-per-day death average, the number who’ve died of COVID-19 has surpassed the 1918 flu.
There are differences between the two scenarios also. In 1918, the U.S. population was just over 100 million, whereas it’s 330 million today. That makes our death rate one in 500 Americans as opposed to the 1918 toll of one in 150.
The 1918 virus also tended to kill differently than Covid, experts say. With World War I, there was a massive movement of men across all of America and Europe. While the coronavirus can be especially severe for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the 1918 virus was unusual in that it killed many young adults.
Spread by the mobility of World War I, it killed young, healthy adults in vast numbers. No vaccine existed to slow it, and there were no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. And, of course, the world was much smaller.
Cause of Greater Concern
Winter may bring a new surge, with the University of Washington’s influential model projecting an additional 100,000 or so Americans will die of Covid-19 by 1 January, which would bring the overall US toll to 776,000.
Despite a free and available F.D.A.-approved vaccine, only 54 percent of the U.S. adult population is fully vaccinated, meaning millions of people are still at a high risk of contracting the deadly virus.
The latest reports from Johns Hopkins University states that one in 500 Americans have died from COVID-19, as many eligible citizens continue to refuse the vaccine.
While technological advances have been helpful for the scientific community, the Internet has allowed misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine to spread rapidly online. Many experts believe this has been one of the biggest setbacks to combatting the virus.
And while there’s no exact measurement for when the pandemic is over, doctors and scientists alike have stated they believe the longer the world waits to get vaccinated, the longer the pandemic will continue.