The Spanish Influenza Pandemic

1269 Words6 Pages
In the fall of 1918, as thousands of soldiers were dying in the trenches of Europe, thousands more were dying in the hospitals and barracks of what would come to be known as the “Spanish Influenza.” While the war largely confined its destructive effects to the armies of the United States and Europe, the Spanish influenza showed no restraint to killing men, women, and children all over the world. Over the course of the year, between 20 and 50 million people were killed by the influenza virus. At the time, the virus causing the influenza pandemic was not isolated. By the epidemiology and characteristic symptoms of the disease, observers identified the disease with influenza outbreaks of the past. However, its speed at which it spread, the three epidemic waves in quick succession, and its preference for the young and healthy all suggested that this influenza outbreak was unique.
Since 1918, a great amount has been learned about influenza. The first human influenza viruses were isolated and cultured in 1933. Gradual changes in the surface proteins of the virus were found to be responsible for the yearly recurrence of influenza epidemics. It was discovered that the unique antigenic surface proteins were responsible for the previous pandemics of 1957 and 1968. The natural reservoir of influenza viruses was identified as wild aquatic birds, from populations whose viruses with new surface proteins could emerge through re-assortment in genes. However, it is still not possible to predict how and when new pandemic influenza strains will emerge, or how virulent strains will prove. Furthermore, as the most deadly influenza virus experienced, the 1918 strain offers the potential to understand the connection between how the virus w...

... middle of paper ...

...ternational prevention infrastructure. Treatments in regards to drugs are antiviral drugs and antibiotics, used to treat disease caused by bacteria such as Pneumonia, the co-infection associated with the many deaths of the pandemic.
In conclusion, the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic was a significant milestone in history. Even now, 96 years later, the image of the Spanish Influenza pandemic continues to be a compelling one. Even with the knowledge that is now possessed about its genomic makeup and natural history, the 1918 influenza virus still retains the capacity to remind us how difficult disease prevention and control remain in societies. Clearly, it changed the way people deal with medical problems, the way doctors deal with diseases, in particular the knowledge and understanding of the disease, and the way our world deals and understands it today.

More about The Spanish Influenza Pandemic

Open Document