Saturday, April 15, 2006


Two articles from The Guardian archive give interesting insight to the influenza pandemic that swept the world through 1918 and 1919, killing an estimated 40-60 million people.

Many researchers today believe The Great Influenza, as it was then known, was a human form of avian influenza, not altogether different from the bird flu virus now present in more than 50 countries across the planet, though not yet in a form transmissable between humans.

The first story, which you can read in full here, discusses the contentious issues of how the virus came to England and how it spread so far and fast :

"Although he could not say definitely that the American troops introduced it to this country, it certainly broke out shortly after they were landed. To be quite sure whether or not the Americans did bring it here, it would be necessary to discover whether the London outbreak preceded or followed the arrival of American troops."

The second story is a doctor's opinion piece where he refutes the suggestion that the conditions under which soldiers lived in battle, in World War 1, was responsible for the growth and spread of the virus' killing power. He also details how to best care for a person sick with the deadly flu :

"Whenever possible, the sufferer should have a separate room. The room should be ventilated by an open window, so as to lessen the risk to others, but as the sick are liable to develop pneumonia, they must be kept warm by a sufficiency of bedclothes. When there is fog, the window should be closed and a fire kept in the room. Sick persons should not return to work except under medical advice.

"The outset of the attack is the most infectious period. Warm clothing should be worn during the outbreak and, in order to resist the disease, a sufficiency of proteid food - such as oatmeal, flour, peas, beans, lentils, herrings, mackerel and milk - is needed by both healthy workers as well as school children."

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