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.