V. Spanish Flu likely killed 100 million: scientists

Résumé of Spanish Flu literature up to the most recent studies; how the body of knowledge has changed.

The killer flu was abetted in its spread by the end of the  war in Europe. Its impacts — a harvest of lives that grew magnitudes larger than the Great War’s toll — were masked by the boggling transformations of the post-war period. Only in recent years has the truth has emerged about the greatest disaster in human history.

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Knowledge about the Grant Pandemic of of 1918-1920 continues to accrue as scientists unravel the mysteries of its virus(es) and its bacteria and their power to infect human lungs and slay humans in unbelievable numbers, basically by suffocation. The Spanish Flu complex was, in the words of virologist Jeffery Taubenburger, “perhaps the most lethal infectious agent of all time.”* Influenza is hardly one for the history books, as many scientists believe the threat of another pandemic to be real — one that spreads along our multitudinous transportation corridors, kills many and cannot be controlled, much less prevented. The virus’s power to mutate and adapt is still poorly understood. The uncertain powers of viruses have at times animated all of North America, as when a few people bring something terrible home from, say, Africa, as in the great Ebola scare of 2014. The annual cocktail of live viruses known as The Flu Shot is still a hit-and-miss proposition. Nor is the tamiflu antiviral vaccine one of medical science’s finest inventions.

* Genetic characterisation of the 1918 ‘Spanish’ influenza virus. Jeffery K. Taubenberger [MD, PhD] in The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19: New Perspectives, Howard Phillips and David Killingray, editors. New York: Routledge, 2003

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