The 1918 trip around the world taken by the influenza virus as it moved from body to body on the wings of sneeze and cough left a trail of 50 to 100 million bodies. In the United States, the pandemic took more people in a single year than AIDS has killed in 40 years.
In the light of those numbers, 33,000 flu deaths in New York City has long been considered a relative if very macabre success. The city's death rate from the disease — 4.5 per thousand — was lowest among large cities on the east coast, and on the low end nationwide. By comparison, Boston's death rate was 6.5 and Philadelphia's was a whopping 7.3.