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Nature of a Flu Pandemic

Some pandemics are relatively minor such as the one in 1957 called "Asian flu" (1 – 4 million dead, depending on source). Others have a higher Pandemic Severity Index whose severity warrants more comprehensive social isolation measures.

The 1918 pandemic killed tens of millions and sickened hundreds of millions; the loss of this many people in the population caused upheaval and psychological damage to many people. There were not enough doctors, hospital rooms, or medical supplies for the living as they contacted the disease. Dead bodies were often left unburied as few people were available to deal with them. There can be great social disruption as well as a sense of fear. Efforts to deal with pandemics can leave a great deal to be desired because of human selfishness, lack of trust, illegal behavior, and ignorance. For example in the 1918 pandemic: "This horrific disconnect between reassurances and reality destroyed the credibility of those in authority. People felt they had no one to turn to, no one to rely on, no one to trust."

Flu pandemics typically come in waves. The 1889–1890 and 1918–1919 flu pandemics each came in three or four waves of increasing lethality. But within a wave, mortality was greater at the beginning of the wave.