Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spanish Flu, 1918-19; 100 million deaths

The 1918 flu pandemic (commonly referred to as the Spanish Flu) was an influenza pandemic that spread to nearly every part of the world. It was caused by an unusually virulent and deadly influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify the geographic origin of the virus. Most of its victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or otherwise weakened patients. The flu pandemic has also been implicated in the sudden outbreak of encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s.
The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. It is estimated that anywhere from 50 to 100 million people were killed worldwide which is from three to seven times the casualties of the First World War (15 million).An estimated 50 million people, about 3% of the world's population (approximately 1.6 billion at the time), died of the disease. An estimated 500 million, or 1/3 were infected.
Scientists have used tissue samples from frozen victims to reproduce the virus for study. Given the strain's extreme virulence there has been controversy regarding the wisdom of such research. Among the conclusions of this research is that the virus kills via a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body's immune system) which explains its unusually severe nature and the concentrated age profile of its victims. The strong immune systems of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults caused fewer deaths.

The flu pandemic that happened in 1918 is termed as a category 5 flu pandemic which was caused by the flu virus strain A with subtype H1N1.

No comments:

Post a Comment