“We saw this during COVID-19, where our social backgrounds and our cultural backgrounds influenced who was more likely to die, and who was likely to survive,” she said in a university news release.
The 1918 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
Specifically, the scientists looked for lesions on the shinbones of the pandemic victims, knowing that the skeletal structure can change because of poor health.
Racism and institutional discrimination can amplify these effects as it did during the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors said. They noted that during the Black Death in London, people who had suffered environmental, nutritional and disease stressors were more likely to die from the plague than their healthier peers.
“The results of our work counter the narrative and the anecdotal accounts of the time,” Wissler said. “This paints a very complicated picture of life and death during the 1918 pandemic.”PNAS
SOURCE: McMaster University, news release, Oct. 9, 2023