To test whether distortions in the age structure of mortality during the 1918 influenza pandemic in Michigan tracked the severity of the pandemic. We calculated monthly excess deaths during the period of 1918 to 1920 by using monthly data on all-cause deaths for the period of 1912 to 1920 in Michigan. Next, we measured distortions in the age distribution of deaths by using the Kuiper goodness-of-fit test statistic comparing the monthly distribution of deaths by age in 1918 to 1920 with the baseline distribution for the corresponding month for 1912 to 1917. Monthly distortions in the age distribution of deaths were correlated with excess deaths for the period of 1918 to 1920 in Michigan (r = 0.83; < .001). Distortions in the age distribution of deaths tracked variations in the severity of the 1918 influenza pandemic. . It may be possible to track the severity of pandemic activity with age-at-death data by identifying distortions in the age distribution of deaths. Public health authorities should explore the application of this approach to tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in the absence of complete data coverage or accurate cause-of-death data.
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