More live coverage: Global Markets New York In , it was impossible to test people with mild symptoms so they could self-quarantine. And it was nearly impossible to do contact tracing because the flu seemed to infect — and panic — entire cities and communities all at once. Moreover, there was little protective equipment for health care workers, and the supportive care with respirators that can be provided to people very ill with coronavirus did not exist. With a case fatality rate of at least 2. Researchers believe the flu spared older people because they had some immunity to it. They theorize that decades earlier there had been a version of that virus, one that was not as lethal and spread like an ordinary flu.

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Here was a mass murderer that was around 80 years ago and whos never been brought to justice. And what were trying to do is find the murderer. Either number is horrifying, but as modern scientists start putting data together the larger number becomes more realistic. We never knocked it to the canvas. It came, it killed, it disappeared. Crosby remarks that whatever the exact number felled by the flu, one thing is indisputable: the virus killed more humans than any other disease in a period of similar duration in the history of the world.

It makes the Black Plague look like a featherweight. It was twenty-five times more deadly than ordinary influenzas. This flu killed 2. Normally just one-tenth of 1 percent of people who get the flu die. So many died, in fact, that the average life span in the United States fell by twelve years in If such a plague came today, killing a similar fraction of the U. Many times you find all three species under the same roof. Birds cannot pass flu to humans, but they can pass it to swine.

Swine, being a close genetic relative to humans, not that surprising can incubate a bird flu and pass it to humans. The moral of the story is that pigs, birds and humans should not wallow in the same mud hole. The current thought is that the flu came to humans via pigs via birds.

Yet if, against all odds, a bird flu virus was infecting people, it would have hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins that had never been seen before by a human being. No human would be immune to such a virus. The whole world was at risk. So there is this very unfortunate pig who becomes infected with a human virus and a bird virus at the same time.

He becomes a blender for these two viruses and the next time a human scratches him behind the ears, most likely a child wonderful incubators , he will pass the new concoction on to humanity which is tragic on many levels, but for the pig especially because who will fill his slop trough if his humans are critically sick.

Before HIV appeared on the scene which would shift all infectious disease researchers in that direction there were teams of scientists searching for samples of the flu.

As is the case with a publish or perish society scientists are not very good at sharing informations, so as one team goes to Alaska to look for victims of the flu, hopefully still frozen in permafrost, another team is planning to go to an island of Norway with the same thought.

When the Alaska team finds a perfectly preserved specimen that information of course is not shared with the rivals even though there was a scientist coordinating both teams.

Johan Hultin is the man who makes the find. I sat on the pail and saw this woman in a state of good preservation. And I knew that this was where the virus has got to come from, shedding light on the mysteries of I would hope, and firmly believe that if the world was on the brink of a major pandemic that scientists would pool their research and share any breakthroughs before publishing being credited their findings.

During the course of this investigation they also found paraffin preserved lung tissue from victims of the flu stored at the National Tissue Repository maintained by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Nice to know we have such a handy repository of our disease history.

When a deadly influenza swine flu virus showed up in President Gerald Ford took the initiative I know right who would have thunk it. The press was favorable in the beginning of the program, but papers like the New York Post started to turn the tide towards government conspiracy theories.

They wrote on October 14th and article That spoke of a seventy-five-year-old woman who winced at the sting of the hypodermic, then had taken a few feeble steps and dropped dead.

If the influenza were to appear today we have antibiotics to counter the bacteria that floods the weakened lungs pneumonia killed as many or more people than the virus of a virus ridden body so death counts would be reduced from the level, but due to the efforts of a handful of scientists we do have the ability now to immunize a population if they will let us. Gina Kolata has taken me on an investigative adventure that not only made science fascinating, but also accessible.


Coronavirus Is Very Different From the Spanish Flu of 1918. Here’s How.

The plague germs were inserted into aspirin made by the German drug company Bayer. Take an aspirin for a headache and the germs will creep through your body. Then your fate is sealed. No, the plague came in on a camouflaged German ship that had crept into Boston Harbor under cover of darkness and released the germs that seeded the city. Boston, after all, was where the plague started.


Gina Kolata


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