The Story of the Greatest Influenza Pandemic and the Virus that Caused it

by Sucre M.

Publisher: Sucre M.

Publication Date: January 05, 2018

ISBN: 9781386870937

Binding: Kobo eBook

Availability: eBook

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If anyone should have known about the 1918 flu, it was I. I was a microbiology major in college and even took a course in virology. But the 1918 flu was never mentioned. I also took history courses in college, with one of my favorites being a class that covered the important events of the twentieth century. But although World War I was a major part of the course, the 1918 flu was not discussed. I have written about diseases and medicine for my entire career, first at Science magazine and then at The New York Times, even writing articles about influenza. But I never paid any attention to the 1918 flu. In retrospect, it is hard for me to understand my ignorance. The 1918 flu epidemic puts every other epidemic of this century to shame. It was a plague so deadly that if a similar virus were to strike today, it would kill more people in a single year than heart disease, cancers, strokes, chronic pulmonary disease, AIDS, and Alzheimer‘s disease combined. The epidemic affected the course of history and was a terrifying presence at the end of World War I, killing more Americans in a single year than died in battle in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The 1918 flu even affected my family and my husband‘s family. My father insisted on heeding the advice of an old doctor who had lived through that flu and who decided, as a consequence, to blast every respiratory illness with erythromycin. As a child, I took the antibiotic every time I had a fever, useless though it was in fighting most common respiratory diseases. Yet I did not make the connection with the doctor‘s frightening experience with the 1918 flu and his steadfast faith in a wonder drug discovered decades later. When I grew older and understood the overuse of antibiotics, I would disparage my father‘s doctor, arguing that he was irrational. In my husband‘s family, the flu had been a life-altering event. My husband‘s mother was a young girl when her father died of the viral ...