Spanish Flu research shows local pandemic outbreaks can occur over extended period

A graphic representation of a virus

New research into the long-term effects of the Spanish Flu pandemic on the population of Glasgow offers lessons for the potential consequences of Covid-19.

Researchers from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) and the University of Glasgow analysed detailed archival records for the City of Glasgow from 1898 to 1972.

The project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19, and involving Glasgow City Archives and Glasgow Life, looked at deaths from infectious and non-communicable diseases following the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19.

The researchers found that the pandemic was followed by a period of heightened volatility in death rates from influenza and related diseases, reflecting more frequent outbreaks in Glasgow, with smaller fluctuations post-1940.

Dr Spyros Lazarakis, Lecturer in Macroeconomics in LUMS, is part of the team who carried out the research. He said: “The experience from 1918-19 shows the potential for a fairly extended period of frequent outbreaks of related infectious diseases following a pandemic, at least on a local scale.

“Covid-19 has been the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu. The two have often been compared at national and global levels, and the archives for Glasgow reveal that the increase in all-cause mortality after the 20th century pandemic exceeded that of Covid-19 (up to June 2020). Our findings offer some insight into possible local patterns in mortality rates in the years ahead following on from the initial Covid outbreak.”

The research briefing, Post-pandemic mortality dynamics: historical city-level evidence, is available online here:

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