America was one raw nerve. An unpopular Republican president had left office, leaving behind an unpopular war to wind down. Democrats now ruled both houses of Congress. The sitting president, a Midwesterner whose ascendancy had been historic, came in without executive experience. The country was deeply divided among itself and cynical distrust of government and corporations alike was rampant. It was 1976.
It had been 58 years since the 1918 flu pandemic, called the Spanish Flu because Spain's open reporting on the flu's ravages made it seem more awful than in more censored nations. Survivors of the deadly influenza often censored their own recollections, so the pandemic took a backseat to many of the 20th century's other tragedies. Then an outbreak of swine flu at Fort Dix, N.J, sickened five and on Feb. 6, 1976, one soldier died, and global health officials recalled just how awful a flu can be.