Purulent bronchitis was a distinctive and apparently new lethal respiratory infection in British and American soldiers during the First World War. Mortality records suggest that purulent bronchitis caused localized outbreaks in the midst of a broad epidemic wave of lethal respiratory illness in 1916-1917. Probable purulent bronchitis deaths in the Australian Army showed an epidemic wave that moved from France to England. Purulent bronchitis may have been the clinical expression of infection with a novel influenza virus which also could have been a direct precursor of the 1918 pandemic strain.
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