The Spanish Flu

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  • Topic: Influenza pandemic, Influenza, Avian influenza
  • Pages : 5 (1537 words )
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  • Published : August 23, 2007
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The Spanish Flu was a world wide epidemic that took the lives of an estimated 50 to 100 million lives between 1918 and 1920. It has been recorded as the most devastating outbreak in world history.

The disease first appeared in Fort Riley Kansas on March 11, 1918 when an Army private reported to the camp hospital with complaints of a fever, sore throat and headache. By noon that day the hospital had treated over 100 sick soldiers with similar symptoms and 500 more by the end of that week.

Initially the strain of the virus seemed no different than those of previous years but it quickly became apparent to health officials that this strain was unusual when it began to attack many young adults and healthy individuals. Additionally this influenza outbreak struck hardest in the summer and fall months as opposed to traditional influenza virus' striking in the winter months. As the virus traveled to the eastern states, public health officials in Philadelphia issued a public bulletin, warning citizens about the disease in July of 1918. . It is speculated that the virus was so easily spread world wide due the conditions of World War I. Researchers believe that the close quarters the soldiers lived in combined with their weakened immune systems made them more susceptible to the disease. Furthermore the disease was spread by the soldiers and sailors travel during wartime. The pandemic was coined "The Spanish Flu" because it received greater press attention in Spain because they were not part of the war and had not imposed wartime censorship. Since the United States played an active role in WWI the government wanted the citizens to focus on the war and initially did not warn them of the deadly virus. . "Patterns of Fatality"

This specific influenza virus targeted mostly young healthy individuals and as previously stated struck in the summer and fall months. What was puzzling about this strain of the flu is that people who did exhibit any signs could suddenly develop severe symptoms over a period of just a few hours. Generally a blue tint to the face developed along with coughing up blood due to a severe obstruction occurring in the lungs. Patients would often begin to hemorrhage filling their lungs with blood with would inevitably cause the patient to choke and drown. In faster progressing cases death was typically caused by pneumonia and in slower progressing cases it wasn't uncommon for the individual to develop psychiatric disorders due to neural involvement and later die from malnourishment. Other common symptoms of the virus included: high fevers, chills, coughs, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue and dyspnea. . "Panicked Communities"

While in many cities less than one third of the population had been affected by the flu other communities were wiped out as a result of the virus. Panic quickly spread among communities and new laws were imposed to prevent the spread of this invisible killer. Pubic gatherings became banned and handshakes were illegal. Funerals for those who had succumbed to the disease were only permitted to last 15 minutes long and many citizens were required to wear face masks while out in public. Many communities even closed all stores and schools. There was a mass shortage of health care workers because of their own ill health and a shortage of grave diggers so many graves were dug by steam shovel and people were buried without coffins or marked graves. . "Global Occurrence"

The global mortality rate is averaged at 2.5-5% of the entire population and an additional 20 % of the population being affected to some extent by the virus. An estimated 17 million people died in India alone which accounted for 5 % of their population. In the United States about 28 % of the population suffered from the disease which claimed the life of about 500,000 – 675,000 people. An additional 200,000 people in Britain lost their lives to the virus and another 400,000 people in France. Out of all of the Asian countries Japan...
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