You’ve probably heard there was a pandemic in the 1918-1920 time frame, which wiped out on the order of 50 million people. This interview with Laura Spinney, author of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, provides some insights into what we can learn from that event.

For some reason, we seem to have a short memory about pandemics. Spinney points out other pandemics in the 20th century we seem to have mostly forgotten about. For example, the 1957 Asian flu and the 1968 Hong Kong flu killed about 2 million and 4 million people, respectively.

Among those very vulnerable to the Spanish flu were the 20 to 40-year-olds. Normally flu is most dangerous to young children and to the very old, but in 1918, bizarrely, it was this middle age group.