1951 influenza epidemic, England and Wales, Canada, and the United States.


Influenza poses a continuing public health threat in epidemic and pandemic seasons. The 1951 influenza epidemic (A/H1N1) caused an unusually high death toll in England; in particular, weekly deaths in Liverpool even surpassed those of the 1918 pandemic. We further quantified the death rate of the 1951 epidemic in 3 countries. In England and Canada, we found that excess death rates from pneumonia and influenza and all causes were substantially higher for the 1951 epidemic than for the 1957 and 1968 pandemics (by > or =50%). The age-specific pattern of deaths in 1951 was consistent with that of other interpandemic seasons; no age shift to younger age groups, reminiscent of pandemics, occurred in the death rate. In contrast to England and Canada, the 1951 epidemic was not particularly severe in the United States. Why this epidemic was so severe in some areas but not others remains unknown and highlights major gaps in our understanding of interpandemic influenza.

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