Influenza Pandemic 1918

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11031

Certain times of the year, health officials recommend flu shots. Is the flu really such a big deal? In 1918 it killed more people than WWI! Learn about pandemics and epidemics and create your own PSA!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What is an epidemic?
  • How is an epidemic different from a pandemic?
  • Do you think you could name epidemics and pandemics?

Discuss your thoughts with your teacher.

According to, an epidemic is the rapid spread of an infectious disease among a large, yet typically confined, population.

A pandemic, on the other hand, is a sudden global, or world-wide, spread of an infectious disease.

The famous Ebola outbreak is considered an epidemic because human sufferers are somewhat circumscribed to particular areas of West Africa, where the virus is common among indigenous fruit bats. AIDS is considered to be a pandemic because it is a virus that seems to have no geographical boundaries.

  • Do you know of any epidemics that broke out in the United States?
  • What about pandemics?

You probably have heard about the Yellow Fever epidemic that ravaged the nation's capital back in the late 1700s, but how much do you know about the pandemic that swept across the world about a century ago?

In 1918, just a year after WWI ended, the world faced yet another catastrophic event.

In the span of just one year, Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, claimed the lives of an estimated 45 million people throughout the world. More individuals succumbed to the illness than lost their lives fighting in WWI! This record-breaking flu remains one of the worst pandemics to date.

Take some time to learn about this deadly disease by investigating this profound resource, The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918-1919 (Department of Health and Human Services).

Next, watch The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (TeacherTube, below) and listen for the answers to the following questions:

  1. How did WWI contribute to the spread of influenza?
  2. Where does flu enter the body?


In the video, it was stated that little was known about how to cope with the disease.

  • What do you think were some results of this uncertainty?

Talk about your thoughts with your teacher.

Continue on to the Got It? section to learn more about this illness.

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