Spanish Flu likely killed 50 to 100 million

Total mortality from the 1918 influenza pandemic, it was reported from extensive research in 2002, was “of the order of 50 million,” and even that huge number may have been one-half the real toll. Researchers Johnson and Miller found reasons aplenty for uncertainty. Discrepancies in record-keeping stemmed from confused nomenclature. (In one place or at one time or for one physician, death certificates gave “influenza” as the cause; in other instances, “influenza and pneumonia” were specified, or simply “pneumonia.”) For much of the world’s population there is little or no information or, if there is information, it is of questionable value or is contradictory. Sometimes data was selective by city or demographic; deaths in indigenous populations were rarely considered. The authors concluded that “it would seem unlikely that a truly accurate figure can ever be calculated.”*

* Niall P. A. S. Johnson and Juergen Miller, “Updating the Accounts: Global Mortality of the 1918-1920 ‘Spanish’ Influenza Pandemic.” Bulletin of Historical Medicine 76, 2002, pp. 105–115.

Created February 19, 2020.

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