Museum of Anthropology Advisory Committee member and Chair of MU's Department of Anthropology, Dr. Lisa Sattenspiel gave a lecture at the MoA in the Spring of 2018 on her research of the 1918 Influenza pandemic in rural populations in Newfoundland and Labrador. Little did we know at the time that two years later we would be facing our own generation's pandemic with the advent of COVID-19. From her website biography, Dr. Sattenspiel's primary research focuses on the ecology and transmission of infectious diseases and their effects on human populations, with particular interest in the ways that human social behaviors promote or limit the geographic spread of human infectious diseases in both historical and modern populations.

While her lecture presented her research on the spread of the 1918-19 influenza epidemic and other epidemics in Labrador, Dr. Sattenspiel has also extensively researched the impact that community improvements had on mortality for different age groups in Columbia, Missouri during the early 20th century. This research is foundational to understanding and predicting our current COVID-19 situation. Bringing her specialization in developing and analyzing results from mathematical and computer modeling of the spread of infectious diseases to the table in the global fight against COVID-19, Dr. Sattenspiel was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to specifically conduct an analysis of "mortality and morbidity patterns during the 1918 influenza pandemic and the present COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Missouri." The full overview of the grant proposal is as follows:

This project requests RAPID funding so that its results can aid in preparing for future waves of COVID-19, especially in rural areas. The project involves in-depth comparative analysis of mortality and morbidity patterns during the 1918 influenza pandemic and the present COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Missouri. The primary goal of the project is to investigate how the experiences of individuals living in small cities and rural areas during a major pandemic differ from those observed in large, urban areas. Analysis will focus on data aggregated at the county level. The specific aims of the project are as follows:

  1. To compare the dynamics of reported pneumonia and influenza (P&I) case numbers (if available) and deaths by county during the 1918 influenza pandemic with those of the COVID-19 case numbers and deaths during the 2020 pandemic.

  2. To determine which county characteristics (e.g., population density, # of hospitals, household composition, average income, proximity to large urban area, ethnic composition, mobility patterns) correlate most strongly with death rates during the two pandemics

  3. To analyze historical data from the Missouri 1918 influenza pandemic to identify control strategies used in different counties during the pandemic and determine their effectiveness

  4. To provide the most important results from Aims 1-3 to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and other relevant organizations to aid in the development of potential mitigation strategies that would be complementary to those already being implemented in rural counties.

Dr. Sattenspiel's abstract can be viewed HERE.

Please congratulate her in receiving this grant to continue her vital research in our current circumstances.

For more information about or to contact Dr. Sattenspiel please visit her website: