By the early 1990s, 75 years of research had failed to answer a most basic question about the 1918 pandemic: why was it so fatal? No virus from 1918 had been isolated, but all of its apparent descendants caused substantially milder human disease. Moreover, examination of mortality data from the 1920s suggests that within a few years after 1918, influenza epidemics had settled into a pattern of annual epidemicity associated with strain drifting and substantially lowered death rates. Did some critical viral genetic event produce a 1918 virus of remarkable pathogenicity and then other critical genetic event occur soon after the 1918 pandemic to produce an attenuated H1N1 virus?
Read the rest of the article at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.