Written By: Ben Cosgrove

The COVID-19 outbreak has already caused more than 1 million deaths in 2020 and put much of the world into quarantine. The race now is to keep COVID-19 from becoming as devastating as the 1918 flu pandemic (the “Spanish Flu”) that infected an estimated half a billion people around the globe and, by most estimates, killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people—at the time, three to five percent of the world’s population.

In America, in one year the average life expectancy in the United States dropped by 12 years, according to the United States’ National Archives. All told, more than 675,000 men, women and children in the U.S. died of the virus.

Here, we remember what the world looked like as the post-World War I pandemic ran its lethal course before ending, almost as rapidly as it began, in the early summer of 1919.

Red Cross volunteers fight the flu pandemic, 1918.

These Red Cross volunteers fought the flu pandemic, 1918.

Apic

St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the influenza pandemic, 1918.

The St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps was on duty during the influenza pandemic, 1918.

Universal History Archive/UIG via Shutterstock

Influenza victims crowd into an emergency hospital near Fort Riley, Kans., in this 1918 file photo.

Influenza victims crowded into an emergency hospital near Fort Riley, Kans., 1918.

AP Photo National Museum of Health

A patient wearing a "flu mask" during the influenza pandemic which followed the First World War.

A patient wore a “flu mask” during the influenza pandemic which followed the First World War.

Topical Press Agency—

Unidentified baseball players wearing masks which they thought would keep them from getting flu during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

Unidentified baseball players wore masks that they thought would keep them from getting the flu, 1918.

Underwood And Underwood/The LIFE Images Collection

A doctor inoculates Major Peters of Boston against the Influenza virus during the pandemic, 1918.

A doctor inoculated Mayor Andrew Peters of Boston against the Influenza virus during the pandemic, 1918.

Hulton Archive—

Inspecting Chicago street cleaners for influenza, 1918.

Inspecting Chicago street cleaners for influenza, 1918.

Bettmann/Corbis

Court is held outdoors in a park due to the influenza pandemic, San Francisco, 1918.

Court was held outdoors in a park due to the influenza pandemic, San Francisco, 1918.

Hulton Archive—

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