John M. Barry’s, Great Influenza

The Great Influenza 2John M. Barry’s, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. The strongest weapon against pandemic is the truth.






What Is The Great Influenza

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (January 1918-December 1920); colloquially known as Spanish Flu was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, with the second being the swine flu in 2009, and of course now the Coronavirus in 2020.

It infected 500 million people around the world, or about 27% of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion, including people on isolated Pacific Islands and in the Arctic. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest epidemics in human history. Historically and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemics geographic origin.

Infectious diseases already limited life expectancy in the early 20th century, but life expectancy in the United States dropped by about 12 years in the first year of the pandemic. Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish Flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults.

Kirkus Review Of: The Great Influenza

HIV-AIDSThis deadly global flu outbreak has gotten hazy in the public memory, and its origins and character were unclear from the beginning, writes popular historian Barry. But influenza tore apart the world’s social fabric for two long years, and it would be a mistake to forget its lessons. (It also tore apart the American medical establishment-but that was for the good).

“Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years,”,-Barry writes.The Black Death

Barry covers the evolution in our understanding of viral disease and the strides that have been made to counter its effects, such as vaccines.

John Barry covers the evolution in our understanding of viral disease and the strides that have been made to counter its effects, such as vaccines.

He watches the flu spread until there aren’t enough coffins to house the dead, and he watches as the military fails to alert the general public because the brass feared it would hurt wartime morale.

“It now seems as if there had never been life before the flu epidemic. The disease informed every action of every person. Emerging viruses, including new strains of flu, will likely visit us again, such as the CoronaVirus of today.

Where Did Influenza Errupt In America

At Fort Riley, Kansas, an Army private reports to the camp hospital just before breakfast complaining of fever, sore throat, and headaches. He is quickly followed by another soldier with similar complaints. By noon, the camp’s hospital has dealt with over 100 ill soldiers. By week’s end, that number jumped to 500. This was March 11,1918.1918 Influenza

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million world-wide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than five years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in health people, including those in the 20-40 year age group was a unique features of the pandemic.


When Was The First Vaccine Developed For Influenza

The first vaccine for influenza was developed in 1938 and given to United States soldiers during World War II. A 1944 study of the new influenza vaccine determined that while helpful in reducing illness with a temperature above 99 degrees Fahrenheit, it did not appear to have an impact on clinical outcomes. In 1947, further evaluation of the influenza vaccine found no difference in health outcomes between those who were vaccinated and those who were not vaccinated.

Flu VaccineEarly flu vaccines contained only inactivated influenza virus type A (monovalent) but, by 1942, there was a bivalent vaccine containing both influenza type A and influenza type B. This early vaccine caused localized and systemic reactions, especially in children. Despite little evidence of its effectiveness, the influenza vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1945.




About, Author John M. Barry

John M. Barry born in 1947, is an American author and historian, who has written books on The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, The Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and the development of the modern form of ideas of separation of church and state and individual liberty. He is a Distinguished Scholar and adjunct faculty at Tulane University.

John M. Barry
John M. Barry

Barry was born in Providence Rhode Island, graduated from Brown University, and entered a PH. D. Program at the University of Rochester, but withdrew from graduate school in the middle of the semester after receiving his M.A. He then coached high school and college football, and his first published article appeared in a professional journal for coaches, Scholastic Coach. In the 1970s he began freelancing for magazines and then moved to Washington D.C., where he frequently contributed to The Washington Post Sunday Magazine and was Washington editor of the now defuncted Dun’s Review and Dun’s Business Month.

Two of Barry’s books involved him directly in policy making. From January 2007 until October 16,2013, he was a member of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE). Barry is also a New York Times Bestseller two times over. One of the great writers of history of our time.

In Conclusion

The Great Influenza-provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. Barry writes, “The final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that…those in authority must retain the public trust.”,

Barry also writes, “The way to do that is to distract nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”,The Great Influenza

At the height of the World War I, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and in 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease.

If you have any questions or want to leave a comment, please do below and I will get back with you as soon as I can.

All The Best,



12 thoughts on “John M. Barry’s, Great Influenza”

  1. Thank you so much for the review of this book thereby directly helping to address the issue of pandemics and disease breakouts. Well! The great influenza really killed a lot of people and ended a lot of lives but I’m delighted that it is a lot more easier now to adjust and treat ourselves now. However, the break out of the corona virus too is scary and we hope that the vaccine would be developed sooner. Thanks

    1. Thank you Rodarrick for your comment, and yes we have better testing capabilities, and of course technology has been a key to what and how fast we can get a vaccine out that is safe for everyone to use. Crossing my fingers that those really smart people get together, they will solve this terrible time in America. Coronavirus is scary, but the panic and hysteria over such items as toilet paper, are truly uncalled for, in my opinion. All that does is take away from others, and when we start doing that, what will stop us from taking it further, so that is the scary part also for me.

  2. I’m guess how ill prepared the world has shown themselves to be during the Corona virus, none of our leaders have paid attention to past pandemics!  The World Health Organization, CDC, and other groups around the world have seemed completely caught off guard with their pants down during this crisis.  Absolutely amazing that we are short on all sorts of medications, respirators, and even cotton swabs to scrape the insides of people’s cheeks for testing yet the pharmaceutical companies are making billions! Absolutely amazing.  Though I don’t think the Corona virus will be near as severe as The Great Influenza, it could be a window of what is to come.  Countries better step up and get prepared or we are gonna relive a horrible time in history!

    1. Thank you Thomas for your comment, and I will say that I agree with you 100%, this is what we should be prepared for, with the H1N1, Swine Flue, Ebola Virus, etc. And these have been in the recent past, so I ask why are we as a nation not prepared? Government needs to STEP-it-UP.

  3. It all starts with media reports that lead to panic and unrest from disease outbreaks.  This is probably a greater threat to the population than the pandemics themselves.  Transparency and public knowledge (accurate information) keep people from doing irrational things (think stocking up on toilet paper) and though they are uneasy and maybe a little scared they want to help to contain any threat.  Knowledge equals help from a community perspective will allow for accurate gathering of data for those who know how to combat such outbreaks.  We can learn a lot from history, can’t wait to get my hands on John Barry’s book.  I wish the younger generation would be more apt to brush up on history.

    1. Thank you Robert for your comment, I agree with you that transparency is absolutely the way to combat all the paranoia and toilet paper hoarders out there. I feel if we learn from our mistakes from the past (and don’t make the same ones) we have a better chance of healing, not only the virus itself, but people from all the hysteria that has been happening all across America. I do not know if other countries people are doing the same things (like hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, etc.) but truth and transparency will definitely help. I think the younger generation are coming around, at least where I live in Colorado, but when I see them partying on the Florida beaches, it is some what concerning, at least to me.

  4. First of all thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful article with us. Your article is really informative and I gained a lot of knowledge by reading your article which is very helpful to me. I read John M. Barry’s, Great Influenza, and gained important knowledge. The Great Influenza, written about the most deadly pandemic in history, and the most powerful weapon against this pandemic .Truth wins all the time, and the wonderful example you give through your article and make us understand is truly unforgettable. I think The Great Influenza provided me with a precise and transparent model as I faced the epidemic on my horizons. The Great Influenza is the only vaccine to eradicate epidemics on their horizons .While it is difficult to implement, nothing is impossible. That is why it is important for the government and the people to have confidence in everyone .You certainly deserve your praise for this great article .

    I will definitely pass your article on to my friends and they will certainly share their new experiences as they gain important knowledge. Can I share your article on my social media?

    1. Thank you Shanta for your comment, and I would love for you to share my article, the more we know about the past on pandemics, good and bad, and how we correct the bad, especially telling the truth about what is really going on. Act now, don’t react to something that has already happened, action is the name of the game, and of course transparency with all people of the world. Our government talking with other world leaders to share ideas and strategies is the best for everyone.

  5. First of all, thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful and informative article about John M. Barry’s, Great Influenza with us. I was looking for an article like this.
    I knew a bit about Great Influenza before but after reading this article, all ideas have changed before. In this article, beautifully decorated with almost everything, Bexin discovers the epidemic influenza virus. As a result, I have got to know a lot. The influenza pandemic took place in 1819, and it was also known as Spanish Flu, about 27 percent of the world’s population was infected, and about 1.7 million died. now There is still a virus infection in the world called coronavirus. Scientists are doing their best to infect the virus, hoping that they will soon succeed. 

    Frankly, I really like this article, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I want to share this article on my social media and I think if I share your article on my social media everyone will know about it 😊

    1. Thank you Shamiimbd for your comment, and please share with anyone you want, the more people know about our history of pandemics, the more we can work to not repeat mistakes and also to do the right things for everyone. I am just trying to bring information that people need from the past to get through today and the future, hopefully without having the mortality rate that they had in 1918 and years to follow. Thanks again.

  6. Many thanks for such an informative and interesting article. The main content of this article is a discussion about the book of great influenza written by John M. Barry. We know that the world is going through a difficult crisis now that the root cause is the coronavirus. The book discusses the origin of the virus and the cure for the vaccine in detail. Currently, it is a timely book.

    I bought this book a while back and it looks great afterward. Those who want to spend the current summertime can pass the time by buying Barry’s Great influenza. Finally, thank you so much for giving us a detailed discussion of a book that we would like to thank.

    This is a review article but there is a lot to learn through this so I would like to share your article in my Facebook group if you give me permission.

    1. Thank you Asraful for your comment, and yes you can share with whomever you want, I just wanted people to understand that we are in the middle of a pandemic right now and going back in history is a great tell to what we have learned and that we don’t make the same mistakes as they did. I know that it will not take as long to come up with a vaccine, but it still does take time for testing and if everyone adheres to the CDC standards, we will come out of this quicker and hopefully stronger for doing so.

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