April 28, 2009 07:40 PM
by Cara McDonough
Forget the swine flu outbreak of 1976. Today’s outbreak may turn out to be more like the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic, which started off mild then reemerged to kill millions.
Swine Flu Eerily Similar to Spanish Influenza
Swine flu continues to affect Mexico, the United States and other countries around the world. The outbreak has confounded experts who wonder how the flu is spreading and what it will do next.
One possibility is that the flu could behave like the 1918 Spanish influenza—a terrifying prospect as estimates put the death toll from that flu strain at anywhere from 20 to 50 million, or more.
There are striking similarities between the two outbreaks. Swine flu, like the 1918 pandemic, began in the spring. Both outbreaks have also mostly been reported in healthy adults; the elderly and the very young, usually the hardest hit by the flu, have not been significantly affected.