Siddharth Chandra* and Eva Kassens-Noor
BMC Infectious Diseases .2014, 14:510 doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-510
The 1918–19 ‘Spanish’ Influenza was the most devastating pandemic in recent history, with estimates of global mortality ranging from 20 to 50 million. The focal point of the pandemic was India, with an estimated death toll of between 10 and 20 million. We will characterize the pattern of spread, mortality, and evolution of the 1918 influenza across India using spatial or temporal data.
This study estimates weekly deaths in 213 districts from nine provinces in India. We compute statistical measures of the severity, speed, and duration of the virulent autumn wave of the disease as it evolved and diffused throughout India. These estimates create a clear picture of the spread of the pandemic across India.
Analysis of the timing and mortality patterns of the disease reveals a striking pattern of speed deceleration, reduction in peak-week mortality, a prolonging of the epidemic wave, and a decrease in overall virulence of the pandemic over time.
The findings are consistent with a variety of possible causes, including the changing nature of the dominant viral strain and the timing and severity of the monsoon. The results significantly advance our knowledge of this devastating pandemic at its global focal point.