The 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic Essay

1946 words - 8 pages

Influenza is defined as an acute, commonly epidemic disease, occurring in several forms, caused by numerous rapidly mutating viral strains and characterized by respiratory symptoms and general prostration. Spanish flu was more than just a normal epidemic, it was a pandemic. Epidemics affect many people at the same time in areas where the disease doesn’t normally occur. A pandemic is an epidemic on a national, international, or global scale. The Spanish flu was different from the seasonal flu in one especially frightening way, there was an unusually high death rate among healthy adults aged 15 to 34 and lowered the life expectancy by more than ten years. Such a high death rate has not occurred in this age group in and epidemic prior to or since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. (Tumpey, 2005)
The disease gets its name not from the country where it first appeared but from the country where it was first widely reported. The Spanish were not involved in World War One. They were not censoring their newsprint as heavily as those in countries involved in the war. When Spain was hit hard by the disease it became associated with the “Spanish flu”. The Spanish king himself contracted the flu. (History 2013) There are conflicting reports about where the disease originated. One commonly held belief is that it originated in a military camp in Kansas where soldiers were trained before being sent around the world to fight. The second wave commenced in three port cities in three countries; this second wave was a deadly evolution of the first wave and began the deadly phase of the pandemic. (The Great Pandemic)
The Spanish Influenza has not been seen since the last pandemic ended in 1919. In 1918 the federal government required states and local health departments to report diseases in communities; however influenza wasn’t a disease that needed to be reported. Officials in Kansas informed the federal government of “18 cases of influenza of a severe type” occurring. By the beginning of summer, reports of a large number of healthy soldiers falling ill and contracting deadly pneumonia after recovering from their fever. Within months the influenza had spread to civilians in Europe, and then to the world. (The Great Pandemic)
Many labs currently hold the disease. When researchers first recreated the disease, they were required to report to the U.S. biosecurity advisory board to state that the work was important and important enough to risk the disease being accidentally released. Recreating the disease is possible by any “well-equipped molecular biology lab” and has been done by Canadian researchers who “find it less complicated to make it [The Spanish Flu virus] themselves by following the published procedure than to get permission to import it from the United States.” If the Spanish Flu were accidentally released into the environment or, even more concerning, it was intentionally released, the consequences could be deadly. World travel is done...

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