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The Origins Of The Spanish Flu Of 1918

2574 words - 10 pages

A few years before 1918, in the height of the First World War, a calamity occurred that stripped the globe of at least 50 million lives. (Taubenberger, 1918) This calamity was not the death toll of the war; albeit, some individuals may argue the globalization associated with the First World War perpetuated the persistence of this calamity. This calamity was referred to the Spanish Flu of 1918, but calling this devastating pestilence the “Spanish Flu” may be a historical inaccuracy, as research and historians suggest that the likelihood of this disease originating in Spain seams greatly improbable. Despite it’s misnomer, the Spanish Flu, or its virus name H1N1, still swept across the globe passing from human to human by exhaled drops of water that contained a deadly strand of RNA wrapped with a protein casing. Individuals who were unfortunate enough to come in contact with the contents of the protein casing generally developed severe respiratory inflammation, as the Immune system’s own response towards the infected lung cells would destroy much of the lungs, thus causing the lungs to flood with fluids. Due to this flooding, pneumonia was a common cause of death for those infected with Spanish Flu. Due its genetic similarity with Avian Flu, the Spanish Flu is thought to be descended from Avian Flu which is commonly known as “Bird Flu.” (Billings,1997) The Spanish Flu of 1918 has had a larger impact in terms of global significance than any other disease has had because it was the most deadly, easily transmitted across the entire globe, and occurred in an ideal time period for a disease to happen.

However it is rationalized, fifty million people, thirty million people, and even twenty million people is an enormously huge amount of people. Throughout history, we have encountered few diseases that take a toll as great as the numbers listed prior. Two of the greatest candidates for something comparably as globally affecting and deadly as the Spanish Flu are Human Immunodeficiency Virus and the Bubonic Plague. First discovered in 1981, The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a retrovirus that is propagated through contact with bodily fluids. The most common means of propagation are generally various means of unprotected sexual behaviors, the sharing of a syringe, or any other direct or indirect exchange of bodily fluids between an infected individual and an unaffected individual. Once an individual is afflicted with HIV, the virus targets their immune system. Gradually, as the virus infects more immune system cells, the immune system functionality becomes increasingly compromised, thus marking the onset Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. (LaPensee, 2008) The other disease, the bubonic plague ravaged Europe during the late 1340s. Cases of plague have broke out since, but no other well documented incidents of the Plague has been as deadly as the “Black Death.” The plague is caused by Yersinia Pestis which is a pathogenic bacterium. Rats...

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