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IPFS News Link • Pandemic

The 1918 flu didn't end in 1918. Here's what its third year can teach us.

• Yahoo News

In New York City in 1920 - nearly two years into a deadly influenza epidemic that would claim at least 50 million lives worldwide - the new year began on a bright note.

"Best Health Report for City in 53 Years," boasted a headline in the New York Times on Jan. 4, 1920, after New York had survived three devastating waves of the flu virus. The nation as a whole, which would ultimately lose 675,000 people to the disease, believed that the end might finally be in sight.

Within a few weeks, however, those optimistic headlines began to change. Before the end of the month, New York City would experience a surge in influenza cases. Chicago and other urban centers reported the same.

Residents should prepare themselves for an "influenza return," New York City health commissioner Royal Copeland warned. He predicted that the virus variant responsible for the surge would be milder and that those who had fallen ill the previous year would be immune. He was wrong, at least in part: While many places worldwide did not see a fourth wave of the great influenza pandemic, several metropolises - including New York City, Chicago and Detroit - had another deadly season in store.


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