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Spanish Flu: Death Rates By Country

It is becoming apparent that there are differences in the death rates for different groups during the Coronavirus pandemic, and there is no clear explanation of why this is.

Thinking there may be some parallels in the 1918 Influenza pandemic, I looked for statistics.

The Geography and Mortality of the 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC by K. David Patterson and Gerald F. Pyle published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in the Bulletin of the History of MedicineVol. 65, No. 1 (SPRING 1991), pp. 4-21 (18 pages) has some information.

These two pages show the death rates per thousand head of population for different countries. The rates are prefaced by a statement from the authors;

Estimates of total influenza mortality and cause-specific mortality rates are summarized in table 1. Question marks indicate especially unreliable numbers. Rates are calculated on the basis of population figures from census returns, estimates in standard reference works, or United Nations estimates. Populations are generally reported for 1920, not 1918, but this source of error is certainly smaller than others.

The highest death rates are generally from Africa and Asia, and the lowest from North America, Australia, and Europe. Not surprisingly, poor populations suffered more than wealthier ones with better food and shelter. Differential access to health care probably also had some impact; there was no specific therapy for influenza or its complications. but supportive care was useful.

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