Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine

8 Comments
Posted April 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ad Orientem wrote:

It is mild compared to even the normal flu.  But then so was the first (spring - early summer) wave of the Influenza of 1918.  It was the second wave (September-December 1918) that was lethal.  Not saying we will see that again.  The odds are strongly against a repetition of that catastrophe.  But still these bugs have a bad habit of mutating.

Christ is risen!
John

April 30, 4:27 pm | [comment link]
2. jkc1945 wrote:

It will mutate, that is for sure.  It already has, that is why we are worrying about it.  But far more mutations are a ‘downgrade’ in pathogenicity than they are a mutation to greater danger.  The odds are highly in favor of an even milder (overall) series of mutations.  It is good that we are tracking this virus, but the media are to be questioned for the amount of time and space they are giving to this.

April 30, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
3. Ad Orientem wrote:

In each of the four major pandemics since 1889, a spring wave of relatively mild illness was followed by a second wave, a few months later, of a much more virulent disease. This was true in 1889, 1957, 1968 and in the catastrophic flu outbreak of 1918, which sickened an estimated third of the world’s population and killed, conservatively, 50 million people.

Source

Christ is risen!
John

April 30, 7:18 pm | [comment link]
4. jkc1945 wrote:

It seems to me that a major difference between now and 1918 is - - we can likely have a vaccine available with enough potency to it, even if and when the mutation(s) occur, to still provide a good deal of protection against the virus, by the time it mutates (fall-winter ‘flu-season.’)

April 30, 8:34 pm | [comment link]
5. Dallasite wrote:

John Barry’s book “Influenza” is a good account of the 1918 epidemic, and how it spread.  It also has some of Barry’s hypotheses on some of the effects of the epidemic.  For example, Barry writes that one effect of the disease was that it affected the cognitive capacities of those who’d had it.  Woodrow Wilson contracted the illness during the Paris Peace Conference after WWI; Barry hypotehsizes that Wilson’s critical faculties were affected and directly affected some of the decisions made, as he had was still recuperating during a critical phase of the Peace Conference.  It’s an interesting read.

One of the key elements of the spread was the close quarters in which army soldiers were housed.  The “ground zero” for that illness, writes Barry, was believed to be in Kansas, which was also the site of army camps during WWI.  The 1918 outbreak was, paradoxically, disproportionately fatal to the young, strong and healthy, and was devastating to the soldiers on both sides of that conflict.

May 1, 12:51 am | [comment link]
6. Ad Orientem wrote:

Dallasite,
Your comment is very interesting.  After reading a medical analysis of the 1918 pandemic I sent the following email to the authors.

Subj: 1918 Pandemic
[edited]
ViewMonday, April 27, 2009 4:54:56 PM
To:[edited]

Gentlemen,
I just read your very interesting essay on the great influenza pandemic of 1918.  I am not a medical professional, but I was able to follow at least some of your points.  I would like to posit for your consideration a possibly significant aggravating factor which may have contributed to both the exceptionally high mortality rate among otherwise healthy young people as well as the spread of the disease.  This factor is not medical in nature.

I am referring to the First World War which was at the time in full force.  Particularly among the belligerent powers you had a mass mobilization of the population to support the war effort as well as mass conscription of young men in the age group noted for being hit so hard.  While I do not doubt the disease afflicted people in their late teens to roughly forty age group disproportionately, is it not possible that the huge concentration of young men (about 4 million in the U. S. alone) in military service could have contributed to this?  Consider that most of these were in heavily overcrowded army camps or serving on packed naval ships or in the trenches in Europe .  In most cases sanitation would have been problematic.  I suspect that these conditions, independent of characteristics of the disease itself, might have had a statistically significant impact on the mortality rate among otherwise healthy young men.

Then there is the fact that World War I was the first time in history where you had such a massive movement of peoples as a direct consequence of the conflict.  With Britain and France tapping their vast colonial empires and the United States moving millions of men overseas this would be a natural conduit for the spread of disease.  Has anyone done a study to determine the effects of the disease on the armed forces as opposed to the general civilian population?  What percentage of those who expired were military?

Tragically the Wilson Administration played its own role in aggravating this calamity.  They went out of their way to suppress any news which might deemed alarmist.  Strict war time censorship was in place and the press was not allowed to publish any stories which might tend to frighten people into not going to work.  The war effort was deemed all important.

Anyways these are just some quick thoughts from a very non-medical amateur historian.

Christ is risen!
John

May 1, 4:25 am | [comment link]
7. Katherine wrote:

In addition to vaccines, we also now have anti-viral medications, breathing and hydration support systems, and antibiotics to combat secondary infections.  This means that developed nations and the wealthy of developing nations might fare much better than did the populations of 1918.  However, a bad virus could devastate people living in the slums and rural areas of Africa and Asia and South America.

May 1, 6:23 am | [comment link]
8. Milton wrote:

Elves, for privacy reasons you may want to delete the e-mail addresses in #6.

[Thank you Milton - Elf]

May 1, 9:05 am | [comment link]
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