A Centenary Tale of Two Pandemics: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and COVID-19, Part II

David M. Morens, MD; Jeffery K. Taubenberger, MD, PhD; Anthony S. Fauci, MD


Am J Public Health. 2021;111(7):1267-1272. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Both the 1918 influenza pandemic and the 2019–2021 COVID-19 pandemic are among the most disastrous infectious disease emergences of modern times. In addition to similarities in their clinical, pathological, and epidemiological features, the two pandemics, separated by more than a century, were each met with essentially the same, or very similar, public health responses, and elicited research efforts to control them with vaccines, therapeutics, and other medical approaches. Both pandemics had lasting, if at times invisible, psychosocial effects related to loss and hardship. In considering these two deadly pandemics, we ask: what lessons have we learned over the span of a century, and how are we applying those lessons to the challenges of COVID-19?

There are many similarities, and some differences, between the influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2019–2021. Epidemiological and clinical similarities, including viral origin, transmission, and disease morbidity and mortality, were discussed in Part I of this article.[1]