Photos of the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Between 1918 and 1919, an outbreak of influenza spread rapidly across the world, and killed more than 50 million—and possibly as many as 100 million—people within 15 months. The speed of the pandemic was shocking; the numbers of dead bodies overwhelmed hospitals and cemeteries. Quarantine centers, emergency hospitals, public use of gauze masks, and awareness campaigns were all undertaken swiftly to halt the spread. But as World War I was coming to a close, millions of soldiers were still traveling across the globe, aiding the spread of the disease. While its exact origins are still debated, it’s understood that the “Spanish Flu” did not come from Spain. The name seems to have arisen as reporting about influenza cases was censored in war-affected countries, but Spain was neutral, so frequent stories appeared about the deadly flu in Spain. Gathered here are images from the battle against one of the deadliest events in human history, when the flu killed up to 6 percent of the Earth’s population in just over a year.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • General Photographic Agency / Getty

    100 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1921

    A look at some of the events and sights from around the world a century ago

  • Salvatore Allegra / AP

    Recent Eruptions on Mount Etna

    Italy’s Mount Etna has erupted four times in the past six days, sending ash into the sky and lava down its slopes.

  • Alexander Hassenstein / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Mars Rover, Green Fur, Icicle Tunnel

    Lava flows on Mount Etna, ski championships in Italy, ice-skating in the Netherlands, an image from New York Fashion Week, freezing conditions in Texas, and much more

  • Courtney Sacco / Caller-Times via Reuters

    Texas Is a Mess

    Images from Texas, where residents have been coping with the harsh conditions as best they can