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Madeline Schroeder 8B
Transcript of Madeline Schroeder 8B
How did the Influenza spread?
Influenza, or flu, is a virus that attacks the respiratory system. The flu virus is highly contagious: When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, respiratory droplets are generated and transmitted into the air, and can then can be inhaled by anyone nearby. Additionally, a person who touches something with the virus on it and then touches his or her mouth, eyes or nose can become infected.
In the fall of 1918 the Great War in Europe was winding down and peace was on the horizon. Deep within the trenches these men lived through some of the most brutal conditions of life, which it seemed could not be any worse. Then, in pockets across the globe, something erupted that seemed as benign as the common cold. The influenza of that season, however, was far more than a cold.. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice). An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war.
The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%.The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years (Taubenberger). People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths. One anectode shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza
An Emergency Hospital for Influenza Patients
The influenza pandemic circled the globe. Most of humanity felt the effects of this strain of the influenza virus. It spread following the path of its human carriers, along trade routes and shipping lines. Outbreaks swept through North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Brazil and the South Pacific. In India the mortality rate was extremely high at around 50 deaths from influenza per 1,000 people (Brown). The Great War, with its mass movements of men in armies and aboard ships, probably aided in its rapid diffusion and attack. The origins of the deadly flu disease were unknown but widely speculated upon. Some of the allies thought of the epidemic as a biological warfare tool of the Germans.
The origins of this influenza variant is not precisely known. It is thought to have originated in China in a rare genetic shift of the influenza virus. The recombination of its surface proteins created a virus novel to almost everyone and a loss of herd immunity. Recently the virus has been reconstructed from the tissue of a dead soldier and is now being genetically characterized. first wave of influenza appeared early in the spring of 1918 in Kansas and in military camps throughout the US. Few noticed the epidemic in the midst of the war. Wilson had just given his 14 point address.
These first epidemics at training camps were a sign of what was coming in greater magnitude in the fall and winter of 1918 to the entire world.The war brought the virus back into the US for the second wave of the epidemic. It first arrived in Boston in September of 1918 through the port busy with war shipments of machinery and supplies. The war also enabled the virus to spread and diffuse. Men across the nation were mobilizing to join the military and the cause. As they came together, they brought the virus with them and to those they contacted.
When the 1918 flu hit, doctors and scientists were unsure what caused it or how to treat it. Unlike today, there were no effective vaccines or antivirals, drugs that treat the flu.Complicating matters was the fact that World War I had left parts of America with a shortage of physicians and other health workers. And of the available medical personnel in the U.S., many came down with the flu themselves. Additionally, hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which were staffed by medical students.
The flu took a heavy human toll, wiping out entire families and leaving countless widows and orphans in its wake. Funeral parlors were overwhelmed and bodies piled up. Some people even had to dig graves for their own family members.The flu was also detrimental to the economy. In the U.S., businesses were forced to shut down because so many employees were sick. Basic services such as mail delivery and garbage collection were hindered due to flu-stricken workers. In some places there weren’t enough farm workers to harvest crops. Even state and local health departments closed for business.
By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity. Almost 90 years later, in 2008, researchers announced they’d discovered what made the 1918 flu so deadly: A group of three genes enabled the virus to weaken a victim’s bronchial tubes and lungs and clear the way for bacterial pneumonia.
In 1918-19 this deadly influenza pandemic erupted during the final stages of World War I. Nations were already attempting to deal with the effects and costs of the war. Propaganda campaigns and war restrictions and rations had been implemented by governments. Nationalism pervaded as people accepted government authority. This allowed the public health departments to easily step in and implement their restrictive measures. The war also gave science greater importance as governments relied on scientists, now armed with the new germ theory and the development of antiseptic surgery, to design vaccines and reduce mortalities of disease and battle wounds. Their new technologies could preserve the men on the front and ultimately save the world.