Spanish Influenza Essay

1845 words - 8 pages

It seems that every year, usually during the colder months, some type of flu is spreading around and causing people to get sick. Generally, doctors can quickly decipher what strain of influenza is scattering about and can often treat it quickly, but in January of 1918, that wasn’t exactly the case. A lethal strain of influenza was rapidly leaving millions of its victims worldwide while doctors raced to find a cure. No one could identify how the influenza started or where it came from. It’s a mystery that even to this day, almost a hundred years later, remains unsolved.
The flu of 1918, better recognized as the Spanish influenza, first struck in a small town in Alaska named Brevig Mission. ...view middle of the document...

The immune system began fighting against itself and slowly started self-destructing. It’s estimated that over 50 million people were wiped out due to one destructive string of RNA. Just in the United States alone, approximately 675,000 peoples’ live were taken from the killer virus and almost 40 percent of the population worldwide was devastated by it (Stern, 2012).
Scientist were still uncertain, yet very curious as to what exactly unleashed this horrific virus. They believe it’s a very good possibility that it all started because of farm animals. The leader of the team responsible for exhuming the diseased bodies, John Oxford, has been looking to get some answers to all of the questions looming about the virus. He believes that when there are better understandings of previous pandemics, people will then better prepared for future outbreaks and will have more knowledge on treating them faster. Chief of viral pathogenesis and evolution at the National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, Jeffrey Taubenberger, has noticed that we have been encountering influenza outbreaks for far longer than most recognize. Taubenberger has researched 14 distinctive pandemics dating back to the 1500’s. The most recent pandemic outbreak was the swine flu, which struck in 2009. In his research, he suggests that it is very possible that the same mutation found in the Spanish Influenza,
has also been discovered in various other flu viruses (Stern, 2012).
Fort Riley in Northeast Kansas was also among the few other cities with early cases of the Spanish Influenza. Fort Riley was a military training camp that trained new recruits before they were sent off to battle in World War I. Private Albert Glitchell, a company cook, thought he was sick with just a bad cold. Cold-like symptoms were most often the first symptoms of the flu. Glitchell was sent to an infirmary and was isolated to prevent the spreading of his illness. Less than an hour later, a few soldiers also contracted cold-like symptoms and also were put into isolation. The effort to prevent the extremely contagious virus from spreading had failed and within five short weeks, over a thousand unlucky soldiers caught the virus. Fortunately, only 46 of the many infected victims passed away from the flu (Rosenberg, 2011). With the high of a number of infected soldiers in Fort Riley, the amount of deaths is surprisingly low considering how lethal and severe the Spanish Influenza was.
Shortly after, more reports started popping up of outbreaks of the Spanish Influenza all throughout military camps in the United States. Disease-ridden soldiers who were traveling to Europe unintentionally brought the influenza over to Europe. In May, French soldiers started becoming terribly ill and in the blink of an eye, the Spanish Influenza rapidly spread across Europe, infecting people in almost every country (Rosenberg, 2011). The death rate in Europe during 1918 was seventy five percent of the entire...

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