A typist wearsing a guaze mask in 1918.Via the National Archives and Records Administration
May 2018 marks the centennial of one of the world’s greatest health crisis in history—the 1918 flu pandemic. In the end, anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million people worldwide would die as a result of the pandemic. New York was by no means spared. During the flu pandemic, which stretched from late 1918 to early 1920, over 20,000 New Yorkers’ lives were lost. However, in many respects, the crisis also brought into relief what was already working with New York’s health system by 1918. Indeed, compared to many other U.S. cities, including Boston, New York suffered fewer losses and historians suggest that the health department’s quick response is largely to thank for the city’s relatively low number of deaths.