Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine,” described flu-like symptoms being experienced in Greece in 412 BC. The term “influenza” comes from the Italian word “influence” and was born in 1357 AD. The consensus at that time was that flu outbreaks were influenced by the alignment of the stars.
There has been about 31 instances of flu pandemics since 1580. A flu pandemic occurs when a new strain of influenza A spreads to multiple continents and countries. In 1580 it started in Asia, then to Africa and Europe and ultimately to America. In the 1580 pandemic, Rome reported 8,000 deaths. Similar problems were noted in Spain. In America, 90 percent of the population became ill with the flu. The method of treatment in those days was bloodletting, which most likely contributed to a high mortality rate.
There were three major global flu outbreaks in the 18th century. Tens of millions were infected between 1781-1782, when treatment was still in the dark ages. Most of the medical community at that time believed the flu was caused by atmospheric factors such as wind speed, temperature changes and barometric pressure.
The most well known and most deadly of all flu pandemics was the Spanish flu in 1918. It killed more than three times the number who died in World War II. Between 1918-1920, approximately 50 million perished worldwide.
Scientists discovered Influenza A in 1935 and Influenza B in 1942. The first flu vaccine was licensed in the United States in 1945. It contained both strains A and B. Since then, scientists have continually been working on a vaccine that will protect against all strains of the flu. All the above according to Microbiologics Blog.
It seems every time they develop a new vaccine a new strain breaks out which is resistant to the vaccine. That’s the case of the current influenza that is sweeping the country. The vaccine may help in limiting the severity of the current virus, so for goodness’ sake get a vaccine.
Australia has been hit by its worst flu outbreak on record in 2017. Because of the spread of this flu to different continents and countries, it is probable that 2017-2018 will become a flu pandemic. All states in the U.S., except Hawaii, are still reporting widespread flu cases and the number of states and Puerto Rico experiencing “high” influenza activity has risen to 32. Nevada is among the states reporting a high rate of flu activity.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that flu cases in 2017 have doubled last year’s total. The most vulnerable to serious flu complications are older adults, very young children, pregnant women, and people with long-term health conditions.
I have yet to see an estimate of what the number of deaths will be this flu season, but I expect it will be high. The CDC reports Influenza deaths from a low of 12,000 during 2011-2012 to a high of 56,000 during 2012-2013. A study by Jonathan Dushoff in 2006 set the annual average of deaths due to influenza at 41,400.
The CDC doesn’t know exactly how many people die from influenza each year because states are not required to report people older than 18 who might have succumbed to influenza. Secondly, flu is listed as the cause of death on many death certificates when the actual cause of death was complications from the flu. Third, many flu deaths don’t occur until weeks after the initial infection, either because the person may develop a secondary bacterial co-infection, or because seasonal influenza may aggravate an existing chronic illness, such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Therefore, many who actually die from the flu aren’t even tested for the flu.
When my grandmother died of breast cancer, it was mainly due to the fact that in the rural South many people actually believed that having cancer surgery would cause the cancer to spread. As insane as that was, she didn’t have a needed mastectomy. What a shame. I am reminded of that when I hear some people say out of total ignorance that getting a flu shot causes you to get the flu. I am told by doctors that even if the current flu is resistant to the current vaccine, it protects against other strains that are out there, and more serious complications.
The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts billions from public health and biomedical research programs, including a 17 percent cut in CDC funding, all to help pay for that stupid wall.
Glen McAdoo, a Fallon resident, can be contacted at email@example.com.