Age- and sex-specific mortality associated with the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic in Kentucky.


Individual death certificates from Kentucky during 1911-1919 were abstracted by medically trained personnel. Pandemic-associated excess mortality rates were calculated by subtracting observed rates during pandemic months from rates in previous years, separately for each single year of age and by sex.

The reasons for the unusual age-specific mortality patterns of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic remain unknown. Here we characterize pandemic-related mortality by single year of age in a unique statewide Kentucky data set and explore breakpoints in the age curves.

The age profile of excess mortality risk in fall 1918 was characterized by a maximum among infants, a minimum at ages 9-10 years, a maximum at ages 24-26 years, and a second minimum at ages 56-59 years. The excess mortality risk in young adults had been greatly attenuated by winter 1919. The age breakpoints of mortality risk did not differ between males and females.

The observed mortality breakpoints in male and female cohorts born during 1859-1862, 1892-1894, and 1908-1909 did not coincide with known dates of historical pandemics. The atypical age mortality patterns of the 1918-1919 pandemic cannot be explained by military crowding, war-related factors, or prior immunity alone and likely result from a combination of unknown factors.

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