A century ago, a new respiratory virus gripped the country at the height of World War I. It started among American troops and exploded into a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the US.

Like the coronavirus, the fast-spreading 1918 fludisrupted life in unprecedented ways. It overwhelmed health care systems, cleared public spaces, and shuttered workplaces and social events.

Like President Donald Trump, President Woodrow Wilson’s administration downplayed the pandemic. And like Trump, who announced early Friday that he has coronavirus, Wilson also got infected. So did some of their closest aides and staff members.

“Wilson never made a public statement about the pandemic. Never,” said John M. Barry, author of “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.”
“So to keep morale up during the war, the government lied,” Barry added, in an interview with CNN. “National public health leaders said things like, ‘This is ordinary influenza by another name.’ They tried to minimize it. As a result, more people died than would have otherwise.”



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