The Spanish Flu of 1918

Influenza is a problem that many of us face upon a yearly basis. The flu can be quite troublesome, and its symptoms can cause you to feel really down in the dumps, resulting in lost productivity and a general loathsome feeling. However, at certain times, the influenza virus may mutate, causing what is known as a ‘global pandemic, in which the world falls victim to new, strong strains of the flu.

Like Avian Flu

We know now that one of the largest threats the world faces from influenza is the sub-strain of influenza known as H5N1, or the avian flu. The Spanish Flu was caused by a similar mutation of the influenza virus which became known as H1N1. The virus hit the world hard, and within a span of only eighteen months, it left between fifty and one hundred million people dead.

While statistics from the time are unreliable, many scientists have come to believe that approximately two and a half to five percent of all people who came down with the Spanish flu died as a result of it. Approximately twenty percent of the entire population of the planet was affected in some way by the flu. In the United States alone, around twenty eight percent of the population came down with the Spanish flu, with between a half of a million and six hundred and seventy five thousand people dying as a result.

The WWI Factor

Many believe that the spread of the Spanish flu was hastened by the fact that World War I was well underway, with troops moving rapidly around the world, spreading the virus. One country that was able to significantly ‘dodge the bullet of the Spanish flu was Japan, who saw a mortality rate amongst their population that was less than one percent. This was due to the fact that Japan acted smart and fast, restricting travel to a large degree.

The H1N1 strain was particularly devastating and surprising when it occurred, as most strains of influenza killed only those who were very young and those who were very old. The Spanish flu, by contrast, affected people of all ages, and the flu hit hard. H1N1s symptoms appeared quite suddenly, and it affected the lungs to such a degree that hemorrhaging occurred, causing the sufferer to drown in their own fluids. While the disease simply faded away, scientists have recently found samples of the deadly strain which they have kept in laboratories to study.

One treatment that was found to be of some merit in decreasing the mortality rate of the Spanish flu was to give a blood transfusion to someone who was suffering from the flus symptoms. The transfusion was taken from a patient who had already overcome the flu, and given to someone who was trying to combat the flu. This resulted in the mortality rate decreasing by as much as fifty percent. It was one of many treatments that doctors desperately tried during the diseases outbreak, and the only one to show any results.

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