The 1918 Flu Pandemic: Photos From a Century Ago

One hundred years ago, 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, between 1918 and 1919.

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

Most Recent

  • Eric Thayer / Reuters

    Photos: The Woolsey Fire Leaves Devastation in Malibu, California

    The Woolsey Fire and the nearby Hill Fire have forced the evacuation of nearly 250,000 residents from their homes near the Pacific Coast in California’s Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

  • Eric Miller / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Midterm Elections, Flaming Barrels, Diwali Lanterns

    A visit to the Swiss Museum of Transport, NATO soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan, autumn colors pass their peak in the North, Bonfire Night across England, and much more

  • Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty

    The Camp Fire Ravages Paradise, California

    Within 24 hours, the Camp Fire has burned more than 20,000 acres, and has virtually destroyed the town of Paradise.

  • Gregory Boissy / AFP / Getty

    Blue-Wave Photos

    I’ve been hearing a lot about a “blue wave” in the news lately, so I thought I should do my best to cover this tidal force with news photos.