The 1918 influenza pandemic: 100 years of questions answered and unanswered

Sci Transl Med. 2019 Jul 24;11(502):eaau5485. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aau5485.


The 2018-2019 period marks the centennial of the "Spanish" influenza pandemic, which caused at least 50 million deaths worldwide. The unprecedented nature of the pandemic's sudden appearance and high fatality rate serve as a stark reminder of the threat influenza poses. Unusual features of the 1918-1919 pandemic, including age-specific mortality and the high frequency of severe pneumonias, are still not fully understood. Sequencing and reconstruction of the 1918 virus has allowed scientists to answer many questions about its origin and pathogenicity, although many questions remain. This Review summarizes key findings and still-to-be answered questions about this deadliest of human events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / pathogenicity
  • Influenza Pandemic, 1918-1919 / statistics & numerical data*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia / virology