One hundred years ago the most severe pandemic in recent history swept the nation, the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. This pandemic led to the death of 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 Americans. It was caused by an H1N1 virus, and the location of its origin is still unknown to this day. It is estimated that 1/3 of the world's population became infected with this virus. Mortality was high in a range of toddlers younger than five years old, people from the age range of 20-40 years old, and the elderly who were 65 years old or older. As CDC claims, "The high mortality rate in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic” (www.cdc.gov ). With no vaccines and no antibiotics to protect against influenza back in 1918, this pandemic became catastrophic.
After this devastation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention knew that they needed to find a way to restrict the effects of influenza and their efforts have improved influenza preparedness dramatically. However, Anne Schuchat from CDC states that influenza continues, “To pose a unique public health challenge as influenza viruses are constantly changing (Schuchat www.cdc.gov).
Many would wonder, are we prepared if a pandemic of the magnitude of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic ever occurred again? The CDC claims that there is still much to do to improve the United States and global readiness for the next flu pandemic such as more effective tools to prevent and treat the flu and better surveillance of flu viruses in animals. However, due to scientific and medical advances being made to fight seasonal and pandemic influenza, developments such as vaccines, antiviral drugs, and a global surveillance system with 114 World Health Organization member states, the world is in an immensely better spot to prevent any common viruses than ever before.