A flu like none other, the 1918 influenza outbreak

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The 1918 flu pandemic killed more than 600,000 Americans in less than two years. (Source: Library of Congress) The 1918 flu pandemic killed more than 600,000 Americans in less than two years. (Source: Library of Congress)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

Lots of people are out with the flu across the state. Fever, body aches and a cough that just won’t let up.

While flu today is miserable on its own, nothing compares to the flu of 1918.

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here to see picture of flu patients in 1918]

The flu of 1918 was the worse disease outbreak to impact the United States, responsible for killing more than 600,000 Americans in less than two years.

Entire families were wiped out from a strain of the flu that many experts say started in the Great Plains sometime in the fall of 1918.

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American troops heading overseas, living in close quarters, helped spread the virus throughout the world.

Worldwide, the flu killed around 50 million people in just a few years.

[RELATED: Officials: Flu cases are up 758% from last year]

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here to see picture of nurses in 1918]

What was so terrifying about this flu was that it was quickly killing young, healthy adults. This group is usually not at an elevated risk like young children and the elderly.

The flu would start like any case of influenza but quickly turned to a type of pneumonia that was quick to kill.

[RELATED: Pharmacies seeing increase in need for flu medication]

As it jogged across the country, some cities were hit harder than others, like Philadelphia.

By the spring of 1919, there were more than 12,000 flu deaths alone in the City of Brotherly Love, according to the Pennsylvania Historical Commission. Most of those happened in just six short weeks.

[RELATED: The US may be in for a tough flu season]

Just like today, the flu of 1918 was spread through water droplets in the air. According to the CDC, a person can spread Influenza from up to six feet away by coughing.

In many cases, it was wasn't the flu itself that killed people, but the response from their immune systems.

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here to see picture of flu strain]

Many victims died after their lungs were ravaged by the body’s own immune system response.

[RELATED: Widow warns others about the danger of not getting a flu shot]

In the spring of 1919, the deadly flu ended, not before killing millions across the world.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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