Monday, February 18, 2013
But for some unknown reason I've always been interested in pandemics, as least as they relate to history. And one of the more interesting for me was the 1918 influenza pandemic. It appeared out of nowhere, killed millions and disappeared just as quickly, in fact almost overnight. It was so widespread and so deadly it could have potentially changed the course of World War I (unfortunately for the Kaiser it hit the German Army just as hard as the Allies). 600,000 Americans died from the "Spanish Flu", between 50 and 100 million worldwide (they're not really sure). One could wake up feeling fine, have a 105º temperature at noon and be dead by five. It struck all ages indiscriminately; the young, the old, the healthy, the sick, it made no difference whatsoever. It's was like a plague of Egypt, some folks got it, some didn't and for no rhyme or reason. Some became infected and recovered, but most didn't.
As it turns out this was a hybrid virus sort of half bird flu, half human flu. But what made it unique it had a particular combination of amino acids (proteins) that allowed it to attack the pulmonary sacs in the lungs which for some reason are normally imune to virus. So the victim suffocated, which of course explains why they turned blue before they died.
By the by, that sweet young thing pictured is an Alaskan Inuit woman who died from the stuff and was buried in permanently frozen ground above the Arctic Circle. Along with her contribution and lung samples from a few soldiers from Fort Devens and Fort Riley, CDC geneticists were able to piece together the what, why and how of this killer.
So, if you get the flu this year just keep in mind, you're gettin' off easy.
Posted by "The Hammer" at 2/18/2013