Pandemic Scares Throughout History

Although H1N1 influenza killed more than 4,000 people in the United States in 2009-2010, this outbreak was relatively mild compared to some flu pandemics. In this slideshow, we revisit the century's worst flu pandemics—and false alarms.
hong-kong-flu

Credit: Life.com

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Hong Kong flu (1968)

After spreading slowly through Asia, this new strain of flu hit the West Coast of the United States in the fall of 1968. Five hundred people in the tiny town of Needles, Calif., became sick, and the virus gradually spread through the western states and the rest of the country.

Fewer than 40,000 Americans died of Hong Kong flu. The casualties could have been far worse, but health officials were more prepared this time around. Some experts believe that the 1957 Asian flu may also have provided some immunity to the population.

« In a 1968 photograph, singer Vera Palm wears a "climate mask" to protect her voice from the flu.

Next: Swine flu (1976)

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