The Economic Perspective: “The Spanish Flu”

Mary:  I’m Mary Walden, with economist MW, welcoming you to the economic perspective.   Today’s program looks at the Spanish flu.  Mike, as today we cope with the coronavirus, there’s been mush discussion about an earlier pandemic, the so-called Spanish flu.   How does that pandemic compare to today’s?


Mike:  Summary Answer

  • Much worse
  • 1918-20, with three waves
  • 40 million people died worldwide, including over 500,000 in the US
  • In comparison, 120,000 US deaths thus far from Covid-19
  • A recession did occur, but milder than today; no mandated shutdown
  • Was transmitted from animals to humans
  • Question of where started; helped spread by WW I
  • Last point – didn’t begin in Spain – only called Spanish flu because there was no press blackout in Spain
  • I’m MW


Mary:  And I’m Mary Walden for the Economic Perspective, an NC State Extension program from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.