Thursday, 16 May 2013

1918 flu pandemic


The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation; the war may also have increased the lethality of the virus. Some speculate the soldiers' immune systems were weakened by malnourishment, as well as the stresses of combat and chemical attacks, increasing their susceptibility.

Academic Andrew Price-Smith has made the controversial argument that the virus helped tip the balance of power in the later days of the war towards the Allied cause. He provides data that the viral waves hit the Central Powers before they hit the Allied powers, and that both morbidity and mortality in Germany and Austria were considerably higher than in Britain and France.

A large factor in the worldwide occurrence of this flu was increased travel. Modern transportation systems made it easier for soldiers, sailors, and civilian travelers to spread the disease.

In the United States, the disease was first observed in Haskell County, Kansas, in January 1918, prompting local doctor Loring Miner to warn the U.S. Public Health Service's academic journal. On 4 March 1918, company cook Albert Gitchell reported sick at Fort Riley, Kansas. By noon on 11 March 1918, over 100 soldiers were in the hospital. Within days, 522 men at the camp had reported sick.By 11 March 1918 the virus had reached Queens, New York.

In August 1918, a more virulent strain appeared simultaneously in Brest, Brittany-France, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and in the U.S. inBoston, Massachusetts. The Allies of World War I came to call it the Spanish flu, primarily because the pandemic received greater press attention after it moved from France to Spain in November 1918. Spain was not involved in the war and had not imposed wartime censorship.

Theories about source

Investigative work by a British team led by virologist John Oxford of St Bartholomew's Hospital and the Royal London Hospital, almost certainly identified a major troop staging and hospital camp in √Čtaples, France as the center of the 1918 flu pandemic. A significant precursor virus was harbored in birds, and mutated to pigs that were kept near the front.

Earlier theories of the epidemic's origin have varied. Some theorized the flu originated in the Far East. Dr. C. Hannoun, leading expert of the 1918 flu for the Institut Pasteur, asserted the former virus was likely to have come from China, mutated in the United States near Boston, and spread to Brest, Brittany-France, Europe's battlefields, Europe, and the world using Allied soldiers and sailors as main spreaders. Hannoun considered several other theories of origin, such as Spain, Kansas, and Brest, as being possible, but not likely.

Historian Alfred W. Crosby speculated the flu originated in Kansas. Popular writer John Barry echoed Crosby in describing Haskell County, Kansas as the likely point of origin.

Political scientist Andrew Price-Smith published data from the Austrian archives suggesting the influenza had earlier origins, beginning in Austria in the spring of 1917.






Google+ Followers

Follow us by Email