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The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Health Flu pandemic of 1918 2003

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#1 DWF

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 10:48 PM

http://www.stanford....roup/virus/uda/

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The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.

Oddly enough the first I had heard of this, was at this year's Marcon, and was somewhat surprised that, it's been more or less forgotten about, which given the global impact of the pandemic, is rather odd.  :eh:
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#2 Uncle Sid

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 11:01 PM

Well, it isn't totally forgotten, it resurfaces every so often to recede from public consciousness again.  I just don't think people can get their minds wrapped around the idea of the flu, which is relatively common, killing mass numbers of people.  People tend to worry more about exotic diseases than something like that, for some reason.  Of course, the usual flu strains do kill, particularly older people, and it's very unpleasant to have, but I don't think people see it as anything other than a seasonal burden.  Obviously, this is not the whole story.
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#3 Drew

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 11:29 PM

I didn't forget it.
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#4 Shalamar

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 11:31 PM

It has alway been my understanding that the Influenzia Epidemic that took so many was the 'real' reason WWI ended.

The influenza had affected all the armies in the European War.  In some American units, the influenza killed 80 percent of the soldiers.

Influenza and WW I

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In one sector of the Western Front over 70,000 American troops were hospitalised and nearly one third of these men died.

By the end of the summer the virus had reached the German Army. The virus created serious problems for the German military leadership as they found it impossible to replace their sick and dying soldiers. The infection had already reached Germany and over 400,000 civilians died of the disease in 1918.

The first cases of the influenza epidemic in Britain appeared in Glasgow in May, 1918. It soon spread to other towns and cities and during the next few months the virus killed 228,000 people in Britain. This was the highest mortality rate for any epidemic since the outbreak of cholera in 1849.

The country that suffered most was India. The first cases appeared in Bombay in June 1918. The following month deaths were being reported in Karachi and Madras. With large numbers of India's doctors serving with the British Army the country was unable to cope with the epidemic. Some historians claim that between June 1918 and July 1919 over 16,000,000 people in India died of the virus.

To many this is a forgotten epidemic, and it should not be. ...

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In the midst of the epidemic the acting Surgeon General of the Army noted the unusual character of this epidemic: whereas influenza normally was a mild disease that killed only the very young and the very old, this influenza was most dangerous to people 21 to 29 years of age.  This influenza took the strong and spared the weak.

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#5 Cardie

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 11:31 PM

My older aunts and uncles lived through the flu pandemic, and I heard about it all the time growing up. At one time there was a theory that a dormant strain of the flu, in people who were exposed to it but never contracted it, were of much higher risk to develop Parkinson's disease, and the one sister of my mother who didn't get the flu in 1918-19 did indeed get Parkinsons decades later.

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#6 tennyson

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 12:33 AM

I haven't forgotten about it. Although the last time I saw it in fiction was in the short-lived series Prey back in the mid 1990s.
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#7 GiGi

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 12:54 AM

I did not forget it either, having spent two days in bed with a this year's flu which is said to be particularly nasty (answer it is!)  Hubby (who also has it) were just talking about the thousands who had died of the flu.  We didn't die, just felt like we were!  

But doing much better now.
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#8 MegL

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 03:07 AM

I wasn't forgotten by my family. I've heard stories about how my maternal grandmother and her family came down with it since I was small as well as other stories about what happened around SW Kansas during that time :(.


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#9 Drew

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 09:51 AM

I didn't get to complete my thoughts.  :cool:  I was going to say, I didn't forget it. In fact, with the SARS scare last winter, a lot of people were expecting a pattern similar to the flu pandemic: brief outbreak, . . . a respite, . . . followed by the epidemic several months later. I understand that we may experience another big SARS outbreak this winter, and that would follow the pattern.
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#10 Rhea

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 11:03 AM

Cardie, on Dec 4 2003, 09:31 PM, said:

My older aunts and uncles lived through the flu pandemic, and I heard about it all the time growing up. At one time there was a theory that a dormant strain of the flu, in people who were exposed to it but never contracted it, were of much higher risk to develop Parkinson's disease, and the one sister of my mother who didn't get the flu in 1918-19 did indeed get Parkinsons decades later.

Cardie
Same here. Plus, you can't read too much fiction that covers the period without reading about the pandemic.
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#11 Shalamar

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 11:04 AM

Drew, SARS had me wondering too, as it ( 1918 outbreak of Influenzia ) was the first thing that flashed in my mind when I heard about SARS. I certainly hope there is no new out break of SARS....
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#12 Drew

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 11:40 AM

Bracing for a Second Round of SARS New Report says US not prepared for an epidemic.

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FRIDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDayNews) -- When the viral respiratory illness that came to be called SARS first surfaced in Asia last winter, public health officials in hard-hit nations had no way of knowing how quickly they'd have to scramble to contain the epidemic.

Before it was brought under control, the outbreak had lasted 114 days, sickened approximately 8,098 people, and killed 774 individuals worldwide. In the United States, there were an estimated 192 cases, with no deaths.

Now, a new report suggests this country isn't fully prepared to handle a major SARS outbreak. The analysis, commissioned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cites several shortcomings, including a lack of public health doctors and nurses and epidemiologists to effectively deal with a significant outbreak.

"We're taking a look at the report and taking it under advisement, says Von Roebuck, a spokesman for the CDC.

The report, released this week, was prepared by researchers at the University of Louisville.

Last spring, public health experts worldwide breathed a sigh of relief when the World Health Organization officially declared the epidemic contained. But they knew that SARS -- for severe acute respiratory syndrome -- could become a recurring scourge.

"To our knowledge, there is no known transmission of SARS in the world" right now, says Dr. Umesh Parashar, lead medical officer of the CDC's SARS task force, which was created four months ago.

"Whether SARS will return or not is not an issue that is resolved at this point," he adds. "There is a possibility that SARS might have a seasonal pattern. It's also possible that SARS may never return."

Nonetheless, CDC officials, working with state and local public health officers and hospitals, have been drawing up preparedness plans in case an outbreak strikes the United States.

SARS is mainly spread by close person-to-person contact, the CDC says. The virus that causes it is thought to be transmitted most easily by respiratory droplets, produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Or, a person can become infected by touching an object or surface that bears the infectious droplets and then touching his or her mouth, eyes or nose, the CDC says.

The disease typically begins with a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Headache, body aches and overall discomfort can also occur. A week or less after exposure to the virus, a dry cough may develop. Most patients also catch pneumonia. There is no specific treatment, the CDC says.

While no one can predict if SARS will return, Parashar says the first outbreak could prove mild compared to future ones. "If it does happen again, we may be dealing with a more serious situation, with a larger outbreak," he says.

"Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested."

#13 Norville

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 02:30 PM

It certainly wasn't forgotten in my family. I've been reminded of it often, and how bad another such outbreak could be.

(Interesting timing. A discussion on flu is just now airing on the radio station to which I'm listening. This year's flu season so far has killed about 10 or 11 kids. A lot of people at work have been sick. I've had a flu shot every year for years, and have usually been lucky, but who knows how long that will last...)

Edited by Norville, 05 December 2003 - 02:34 PM.

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#14 Christopher

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 05:22 PM

I learned about the 1918-19 pandemic in World History class, and it was news to me.  I think maybe the reason it isn't talked about much is that the countries suffering from it censored the news about it, because they were at war and didn't want to admit their weakness.  It came to be called the "Spanish flu," because noncombatant Spain wasn't censoring the news about it, so people thought it was only happening in Spain.  In fact, the flu strain took its first victims at a Kansas army base in March 1918, and was then brought to Europe by a US troop ship in May.  There it mutated into a deadlier form and was spread back to the US and into Africa by steamships carrying troops.
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#15 MegL

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Posted 06 December 2003 - 12:58 AM

Well the last theory I heard about where they currently think the 1918-19 pandemic started is that it started in Alaska. There was a news item on scientist digging up several people who were thought to have died from it in Alaska (potential "ground zero" cases) to get tissue samples just a few years back.


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#16 Nialla

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Posted 06 December 2003 - 11:52 AM

A lot of people don't realize how devastating the epidemic was, but I have something local that puts it into perspective for me. The local cemetery was located on the south side of a farm-to-market road. So many people died of the flu, they ran out of cemetery plots and had to open another section on the north side of the road.

MegL -- I think I saw that documentary as well. They thought they had a good chance of getting a sample of the virus because the bodies were buried in permafrost. I think they also said that while it was referred to as influenza, they really didn't know for certain that's what it was. If it was influenza, they were hoping to figure out which strain it was.
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