The impact of the 1918 flu epidemic and its place in our history

Mother and children speaking to a doctor at a doctor's office

Although the flu, and reminders to get vaccinated, dominated headlines during the pandemic, the flu has had a far-reaching effect on world health and finances throughout American history.

During the 1918 Flu Pandemic 500 million people were infected with the Spanish Flu, tragically leading to the deaths of four percent of the world's entire population. The first recorded victim was an American troop in Fort Riley Kansas in March of 1918 and within days the virus spread quickly as far as Queens, NY. The effects of the flu were so powerful that death benefits payments arising from the pandemic were twice of New York Life’s losses from all of World War 1.

Despite advances in vaccinations and healthcare the flu continues to have a huge effect on American Society. According to CDC estimates, influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010. Financially this costs Americans an estimated $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually. The best ways to keep future flu epidemics at bay are to get annual vaccinations, wash your hands regularly, and disinfect surfaces you will be eating on.


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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937