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Looking back on America's — and Utah's — worst pandemic

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 25, 2020

No two ways around it, COVID-19 is a serious, sometimes deadly disease that deserves international attention and precautions.

But unless it takes a truly terrible turn, it’s nothing compared to a virus that struck the world at the height of World War One.

They called it the Spanish Flu. It didn’t originate in Spain, but Spain was the hardest hit country in Europe.

It was also the worst epidemic to ever strike the United States. In two years, it killed more people than our deadliest war.

An estimated 620,000 died in the Civil War. 675,000 died of the Spanish Flu. Even more cruel, the flu struck the healthiest segment of the population the hardest, disproportionately killing working-age men and thus robbing millions of families of their breadwinners at a time when men were expected to be the earners.

In Utah, deaths from flu rose from 119 per 100,000 people in 1915 to 509 in 1918. All in all, the disease took nearly 1,900 lives in 1918 alone in Utah. That’s in a population of 373,000.