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Historical Influenza Epidemics


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Influenza Epidemics

There have been four large global influenza epidemics in the last 200 years – in 1847, 1881, 1891 and 1919. The 1919 epidemic is often mentioned but the others are ignored. COVID-19 is an influenza epidemic, though each one has different characteristics. Here are some newspaper extracts to think about.

5 April 1848 Sydney Morning Herald: London - In the fourteen days, therefore, ending last Saturday, there were 2038 deaths more than usual, and as such to be ascribed to the epidemic, or the prevailing unhealthiness of the season. We are now informed, though we hope and trust without sufficient grounds, that since last Saturday the rate of mortality has continued to increase. It is scarcely necessary to remind the public that this is a greater mortality than any which this generation has known…The increase is much greater, even in the proportion of two to one, in deaths at 60 years of age and upwards.

27 Oct 1899 Daily Telegraph: The present visitation of influenza which is visiting several Australian colonies, notably South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, is the most severe that has been known since the first outbreak nearly ten years ago. As on that occasion, the mysterious disease acquired a. strong hold at Adelaide before appearing as an active epidemic in the eastern colonies. The subject is one concerning which medical science is not yet able to speak with confidence. Several theories have been advanced regarding the new malady; that which is most generally held classing It as a form of the plague which has been bred in Eastern Asia, spreading thence westward through the world.

1 October 1892 Sydney Morning Herald: It may be well to note at this stage that the death rate of 1891 was very considerably augmented by the influenza epidemic, an abnormal proportion of deaths occurring amongst aged persons, especially females.

There are hundreds of newspaper articles that could be quoted from these periods. They tell us that what we are experiencing is nothing new.

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Add to that the censorship of the USA which did not want to demoralise its troops already in a frightening war.

3 hours ago, pmccarthy said:

Several theories have been advanced regarding the new malady; that which is most generally held classing It as a form of the plague which has been bred in Eastern Asia, spreading thence westward through the world.

I wonder why Asia is such a breeding ground for organisms that cause epidemics. Not only do the species of the 'flu family seem to come from there, but also bubonic plague. A teenager died in Inner Mongolia this week from bubonic plague after eating the meat of a marmot.

 

Epidemics of the plague occur in tarbagan marmots in northeastern China and Mongolia, such as the Manchurian plague of 1910–1911.The plague in marmots is of the pneumonic form, spread by marmots coughing. The plague can jump from marmots to humans through the bite of the tarbagan flea (Ceratophyllus silantievi), or through consumption of meat. Marmot epidemics are known to co-occur with human epidemics in the same area. Human plague epidemics in this area are largely pneumonic plague, the most deadly form of plague. The tarbagan marmot has been eaten for centuries in the native cuisine of Mongolia, and in particular in a local dish called boodog. The meat is cooked by inserting hot stones, preheated in a fire, into the abdominal cavity of a deboned marmot. The skin is then tied up to make a bag within which the meat cooks. Not a good way to destroy pathogens.

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2 hours ago, old man emu said:

The tarbagan marmot has been eaten for centuries in the native cuisine of Mongolia, and in particular in a local dish called boodog. The meat is cooked by inserting hot stones, preheated in a fire, into the abdominal cavity of a deboned marmot. The skin is then tied up to make a bag within which the meat cooks. Not a good way to destroy pathogens.

That's it then. No more boodog for me.

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It is more fortunate for us that the cause of bubonic plague is a bacteria, Yersinia pestis which we should be able to kill off with anti-biotics and bacteriophages. You can't "kill" a virus, you have to dis-assemble its genetic molecule, RNA, which is different from DNA, and might well have existed before DNA as RNA is a simpler molecule.

 

The aim of pathologists is to develop a vaccine that "teaches" our  CD8+ T-cells,  specialized white blood cells that consume membranes and outer surfaces of diseased cells. CD8+ T-cells, often referred to as "killer" T-cells, ingest parts of the virus-infected cells that they were attacking. These "killer" T-cells don't attack any body cell that is infected with viruses. Each T-cell is specific for a particular virus. So floating around in our blood we have the basic "meat and two veg" T-cells, the vegan T-cells, the lactose-intolerant T-cells and "sea-food allergic" T-cells.
 

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