DEATH BY DROWNING
One of the deadliest diseases in human history, the virus that caused the Spanish flu is related to the modern H1N1 strain. The 1918 virus killed about 2.5 per cent of those infected, compared to a more typical rate of 0.1 per cent for previous flu outbreaks. Named for the widespread death caused in Spain by an early wave of the disease, the virulent 1918 strain may have originated with a genetic shift in the flu virus in China. Many of the afflicted thought they simply had a cold, which progressed to the usual flu symptoms of fever, chills, aches, cough, congestion, and fatigue. Pneumonia often followed. The illness moved with grim speed — it wasn’t uncommon for sufferers to be dead within a day of first showing symptoms. Unlike other epidemics, the Spanish flu was most deadly for those who were in good health and between about twenty and forty years old. The virus caused a reaction that seemed to turn healthy people’s immune systems against them. Victims’ lungs filled with bloody, frothy liquid, and their faces turned blue as they drowned in their own fluids, suffocating from a lack of oxygen.