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A 105-year-old woman who survived the 1918 flu that killed 50 million people worldwide has died of COVID-19

Business Insider logo Business Insider 10/2/2021 ydzhanova@businessinsider.com (Yelena Dzhanova)
Dorene Giacopini holds up a photo of her mother Primetta Giacopini while posing for a photo at her home in Richmond, Calif. on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. AP Photo/Josh Edelson © AP Photo/Josh Edelson Dorene Giacopini holds up a photo of her mother Primetta Giacopini while posing for a photo at her home in Richmond, Calif. on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. AP Photo/Josh Edelson
  • Primetta Giacopini died from COVID-19 on September 19, having survived the 1918 flu.
  • The 1918 flu killed 50 million people - about one-fifth of the world's population at the time.
  • Giacopini was hospitalized in September and died at 105, her daughter, Dorene, told the AP.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Primetta Giacopini, a 105-year-old woman who's survived the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 50 million people globally, has died of COVID-19.

"I think my mother would have been around quite a bit longer" if she didn't get infected with the coronavirus, Giacopini's daughter Dorene Giacopini told the Associated Press. "She was a fighter. She had a hard life and her attitude always was ... basically, all Americans who were not around for World War II were basically spoiled brats."

The 1918 flu had killed Giacopini's mother in Connecticut. Giacopini at the time was 2 years old.

Records from the National Archive say the 1918 flu killed about 50 million people. And about one-fifth of the world's population at the time was infected with it. And in the United States, about 25% of the population contracted the virus. That year, average life expectancy in the US dropped suddenly by 12 years.

Giacopini also survived World War II, the AP reported. She fled Italy in 1941, while fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was in power. When Italy entered the war in 1940, Giacopini received warnings from the police to leave the country, saying she might end up in a concentration camp.

She escaped with a group of strangers on a train to Portugal, according to the AP. Later, she traveled to the US and gave birth to Dorene in 1960.

And while making a visit on September 9, Dorene found her mother coughing. Her mother was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. So was her caretaker and the caretaker's husband.

"I made sure we said 'I love you," Dorene told the AP. "She did the 'See you later, alligator.' I think we both said, 'After a while, crocodile.'"

"That was the last time I saw her," she said.

Giacopini was hospitalized two days later and her oxygen levels dropped considerably.

Dorene chose to take her mother off the ventilator because "they said nobody over 80 makes it off," she said.

On September 16, Giacopini died.

"She had such a strong heart that she remained alive for more than 24 hours after they removed the oxygen," Dorene said.

"I'm reminding myself that she was 105. We always talk about ... my grandmother and mother, the only thing that could kill them was a worldwide pandemic," she said.

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