Monday, February 18, 2013

Coulda Been Worse

    I had the flu last week, probably the worst dose I've had in ten years. The all time worst was when I was a sophomore in high school (I thought I was going to die) and the second worst was in Italy when we had something go through the barracks that was unGodly awful (guys were soiling themselves in bed, not very pleasant). I recall we were so shorthanded some of the NCOs and officers actually had to get off their lazy, useless friggin' asses and actually do some work.
    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 105ยบ 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.

2 comments:

BigFred said...

Lots of folks say they have the flu when they have a cold. I have had no kidding Influenza, and H1N1 will kill you just as dead as H5N1, and determining the N# would kill your whole neighborhood.

"The Hammer" said...

Fred if what I had wasn't the flu then God help us all. One of my guys tried to tough it out and work, he's home with pneumonia as I write this. Oh yeah, he got his flu shot this year.

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