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

  • Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Grenadier Guards, Floating Island, Wrapped Arch

    Flooding in southern France, cliff diving in Ireland, civilian astronauts launch from Florida, an elephant bath in Pakistan, scenes from the Met Gala in New York City, and much more

  • Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

    Scenes From Greenland

    Snapshots from the largest island in the world

  • Dr. Andrew Mark Posselt, California

    Photographing the Microscopic: Winners of Nikon Small World 2021

    Some of the winning and honored images from the 2021 Small World Photomicrography Competition

  • Zhe Ji / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Depleted Lake, Wayward Cow, Alligator Reef

    A “Tribute in Light” in New York City, lingering power outages in Louisiana, rice harvesting in Japan, final scenes from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, a Neanderthal in the Netherlands, and much more