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Cumulative Excess Deaths

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Spanish Flu Deaths by Country 2024

The 1918 influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu and the great influenza pandemic, was a deadly pandemic that took place more than 100 years ago. It was caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus, which was particularly deadly that year. Even though it is difficult to track the number of people who got a disease so long ago, it is estimated that 500 million people contracted the Spanish Flu during the course of the pandemic, which lasted approximately two years. This is estimated to be one-third of the global population. The virus is estimated to have killed between 25 million and 50 million people, which leads to a mortality rate of approximately 5 to 10 percent.

How Did the Spanish Flu Kill People Once Infected?

Like the flu today, the Spanish Flu was largely a respiratory virus. Therefore, a significant number of people died due to respiratory distress; however, the Spanish Flu also killed people due to something called cytokine storm. Some people who contracted the Spanish Flu produced an overwhelming immune response that led to widespread inflammation throughout the body. As a result, the body would have a difficult time continuing to function, leading to severe organ dysfunction. Ultimately, without the tools we have from modern medicine today, people who contracted the Spanish Flu would pass away.

How Many People Died in Each Country?

Not every country kept records of how many people contracted and died of the Spanish Flu. India was hit particularly hard, where between 12 and 17 million people died. This represented approximately five percent of the population. In Finland, approximately 210,000 people were infected, and about 20,000 people died. In Sweden, approximately 34,000 people died. In Japan, approximately 23 million people were infected with the Spanish flu, and approximately 390,000 people died. In Samoa, close to a quarter of the 38,000 people died in a span of only two months. The United States was also hit very hard. At the time, the population was approximately 105 million, and close to 30 percent of the population was infected at some point. Between 500,000 and 850,000 people died during the course of the pandemic. In Brazil, approximately 300,000 people died, including the president at the time.

Why Was the Spanish Flu Censored by the News Media?

There were a lot of countries all over the world that were trying to censor information related to the Spanish Flu. At the time, World War 1 was still raging, and many of the leaders throughout the world were worried that the population would turn against the war if they learned of a deadly pandemic, particularly with many soldiers traveling internationally. Therefore, the Spanish Flu was largely overlooked by people, including those living in countries that were impacted particularly hard by the war, and the history of the Spanish Flu remains supplanted by World War I, considered to be a much more impactful event than the pandemic.

  • Values shown for China, Brazil, and Poland are median estimates. The actual ranges are China 4,000,000-9,500,000; Poland 200,000-300,000; and Brazil 35,000-100,000.
  • Because cause of death recording was often compromised during the pandemic, statisticians often estimate the total number of deaths from Spanish Flu by subtracting the anticipated number of deaths during a normal year from the total number of deaths during the pandemic, with the result being the number of deaths attributable to Spanish Flu.
  • For countries examined in the 2009 NIH study, the number of excess deaths compared to expected deaths is shown, displayed as a percentage. For example, Finland's value of 33 indicates that the number of Excess/Spanish Flu deaths in the country, 24771, is approximately 33% as large as the total number of deaths expected from non-pandemic causes (74667).

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Country
Cumulative Excess Deaths
Deaths as % of Excess
Pandemic End
Pandemic Start
India12,000,0000%
China6,750,0000%
Indonesia1,500,0000%
United States675,0000%
Italy544,288172%Feb. 1919Aug. 1918
Mexico500,0000%
Russia450,0000%
Germany426,57473%Jan. 1919Mar. 1918
Japan390,0000%
South Africa300,0000%
Spain252,12187%Feb. 1919Jun. 1918
Poland250,0000%
France237,50966%Apr. 1919Aug. 1918
United Kingdom153,15255%Apr. 1919Oct. 1918
Egypt138,0000%
Portugal135,600102%Jun. 1919Mar. 1918
Brazil67,5000%
Hungary60,0000%
Bulgaria51,156102%Jan. 1919Mar. 1918
Canada50,0000%
Netherlands41,33784%May. 1919Oct. 1918
Sweden38,45374%May. 1919Sep. 1918
Switzerland29,99569%Jun. 1919Jul. 1918
Finland24,77133%Jun. 1919Jan. 1918
Austria20,9000%
Australia15,0000%
Argentina14,9970%
Norway14,46565%May. 1919Sep. 1918
Denmark10,65058%Apr. 1919Oct. 1918
Turkey9,9740%
Greece4,1380%
showing: 31 rows

Which countries were hit most by the Spanish flu?

Samoa lost a quarter of its population to the Spanish flu. India had between 12 and 17 million residents perish to the Spanish flu, 5% of the country's population.

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