Staff Picks: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic

One hundred years ago, the 1918 Influenza Pandemic affected the entire world. While the true number of deaths is unknowable, the most commonly accepted estimates range between 20-40 million victims.  Beginning with the spring of 1918, there were some local soldiers dying at military bases around the US, and by the autumn of 1918 the disease arrived in Pennsylvania with a vengeance. Of the 231,000 residents of Westmoreland County at that time, over 41,000 were infected with approximately 1,300 estimated deaths.

Dr. Thomas Soltis from Westmoreland County Community College is visiting WLN libraries to talk about the pandemic’s impact on Westmoreland County and to collect stories of families affected by the flu.  Before attending a program at your local library, check out one of these books that explore the 1918 pandemic, how diseases spread, and the affect on society.


Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It by Gina Kolata

Gina Kolata, an acclaimed reporter for “The New York Times,” unravels the mystery of this lethal virus with the high drama of a great adventure story. Delving into the history of the flu and previous epidemics, detailing the science and the latest understanding of this mortal disease, Kolata addresses the prospects for a great epidemic recurring, and, most important, what can be done to prevent it.



Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah

Prizewinning journalist Sonia Shah interweaves history, original reportage, and personal narrative to explore the origins of contagions, drawing parallels between cholera, one of history’s most deadly and disruptive pandemic-causing pathogens, and the new diseases that stalk humankind today.





 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In this novel, a pandemic quickly spreads across the country, wiping out civilization as we know it.  Station Eleven explores what connects us, what sustains us, and what makes us human.