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Sioux Falls Scientists endorse Influenza 1918 for showing us how horrible
epidemics could be and how far we've come in health care since 1918.

Influenza 1918
The Worst Epidemic in American History

Influenza 1918 (1998) - 60 minutes
Influenza 1918 at Amazon.com

The Worst Epidemic in American History

In September of 1918, soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. Doctors found the victims' lungs filled with fluid and strangely blue. They identified the cause of death as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen. It would become the worst epidemic in American history, killing over 600,000 - more than all the nation's combat deaths this century combined.

Drawing on remarkable archival photographs and film footage, and interviews with survivors and medical historians, Influenza 1918 tells the powerful story of American's worst health crisis. Despite recent triumphs over many infectious diseases, medical science proved powerless against the killer virus. In desperation, people turned to folk remedies: garlic, camphor balls, sugar cubes soaked with kerosene. Frantic officials closed schools, factories and churches, and everyone was required to wear a mask. But the virus was unstoppable. Relentless. Lethal. Curiously, this painful event has nearly faded from our national memory. But as this gripping medical thriller proves, it is a story that deserves never to be forgotten.

5-25-19 The surprising cultural contributions of the 1918 influenza pandemic
The 1918 influenza pandemic was a historic event with massive influence. Millions of people died. Roughly one-third of the entire global population was infected. But until the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, odds are you probably haven't thought much about the impact of 1918's flu outbreak. That might be because there seem to be few great works of art that keep the 1918 pandemic alive in cultural memory — the way a novel like "All Quiet On The Western Front," or the haunting paintings of Otto Dix did for World War I. But scholar Elizabeth Outka, author of "Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature," argues the 1918 flu pandemic's influence is an undercurrent that runs through many works of the period. She points to examples like Virginia Woolf's novel "Mrs. Dalloway," which follows upper-class London resident Clarissa Dalloway as she makes her way around the city. Though often read as a novel about the aftermath of the war, the pandemic leaves its mark, too. The titular character suffers from heart damage resulting from influenza — as did Woolf, in real life. Another surprising cultural byproduct of the pandemic? Zombies. Outka says the enormous death toll of the war and the pandemic — which required mass graves, delayed funerals, or insecure burials — deprived families of the traditional mourning process. There was also a fear of unwittingly infecting loved ones with a hidden, contagious disease. From these anxieties sprung proto-zombie figures in the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft, as well as in the 1919 silent film "J'accuse," by French director Abel Gance. "It was a way, I think … of visualizing a monster that was invisible, in the case of the flu," Outka said. The pandemic and World War I also led to a renewed interest in spiritualism, a belief that humans could communicate with the dead through seances, mediums, and objects like Ouija boards. One prominent proponent of spiritualism was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series, whose son and younger brother died of influenza.

10-26-19 The flu vaccine: Everything you need to know
How is it made? How often does it work? And what new research is being done to improve it? Getting a flu shot is a seasonal rite. But why do you need one every year — and why doesn't it always work? Here's everything you need to know:

  1. How does the vaccine work? The flu vaccine contains inactive or weakened versions of three or four different strains of the influenza virus. Most people receive the vaccine via injection, but there is also a nasal spray available.
  2. Do most people get vaccinated? No. Although the U.S. has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, only 45 percent of adults and 63 percent of children get flu shots each year.
  3. How effective is it? The vaccine's effectiveness varies dramatically depending on how well it matches the viruses circulating in a given season. In good years, the vaccine protects 50 to 70 percent of the people receiving it.
  4. What makes flu so tricky? The flu virus is constantly mutating, rendering the body's antibodies against previous flu infections obsolete. Influenza is less stable than other viruses, such as chicken pox, because its main genetic material is RNA.
  5. How are vaccines made? The process hasn't changed much since the first flu vaccines were given to American soldiers in 1945. Over 90 percent of flu vaccines are incubated in fertilized chicken eggs, because the virus grows extremely well in them.
  6. Are improvements possible? In theory, yes. President Trump issued an executive order in September directing the Department of Health and Human Services to create a flu vaccine task force to modernize seasonal vaccine production.
  7. A universal flu vaccine: The holy grail of flu research is a universal vaccine that would provide lasting protection against all forms of the virus, but it remains elusive.

12-7-18 Two new books explore the science and history of the 1918 flu pandemic
‘Pandemic 1918’ and ‘Influenza’ chronicle the flu’s devastating history and uncertain future. The U.S.S. Leviathan set sail from Hoboken, N.J., on September 29, 1918, carrying roughly 10,000 troops and 2,000 crewmen. The ship, bound for the battlefields in France, had been at sea less than 24 hours when the first passengers fell ill. By the end of the day, 700 people had developed signs of the flu. The medical staff tried to separate the sick from the healthy, but that soon proved impossible. The poorly ventilated bunkrooms filled with the stench of illness. The floor grew slippery with blood from many nosebleeds, and the wails of the sick and dying echoed below deck. Bodies piled up and began decomposing, until finally the crew was forced to heave them into the sea. It was the stuff of nightmares. This is just one of the grisly scenes in Pandemic 1918 by historian Catharine Arnold. The book details how the movement of troops during World War I helped drive the spread of a deadly strain of influenza around the globe — from the American Midwest to Cape Town, South Africa, to New Zealand and beyond. Scientists have yet to conclusively determine where that flu originated; Arnold suggests it was on a massive military base in Étaples, France. But all agree that the pandemic that became known as the Spanish flu didn’t begin in Spain. And the disease, which ultimately killed more than 50 million people, wasn’t caused by any ordinary influenza strain. Grim eyewitness accounts chronicle the gory details of how this virus differed. Victims often bled from the nose or mouth, writhed in pain and grew delirious with fever. Their faces turned dusky blue as their lungs filled with pus. Healthy men and women in their prime were dying, sometimes within days of falling ill.

10-26-18 What the approval of the new flu drug Xofluza means for you
A new single-dose treatment gives doctors a novel way to fight influenza infections. There’s a new flu drug on the shelf, the first in 20 years to get a thumbs-up from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. On October 24, the agency approved the use of the new antiviral drug, called baloxavir marboxil and sold under the brand name Xofluza. The drug, already available in Japan, works differently to kill the influenza virus from the other main class of flu antivirals, which includes the drug Tamiflu. Antiviral drugs can help alleviate symptoms and shorten the flu’s duration, although flu vaccination remains the best way to prevent illness and death caused by the virus. “Prevention is better than treatment in all things and that’s absolutely true for flu,” says infectious disease physician Andrew Pavia of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. “So the first message is: Get your flu shot.” Many people aren’t getting that message: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports October 25 that less than 40 percent of adults got a flu shot last year, the lowest amount in at least eight seasons. The 2017–2018 season in the United States was particularly deadly; about 80,000 people died of flu or related complications (SN Online: 9/27/18). The recent bad flu season highlights the importance of having ways to treat the flu, in addition to preventing it. The approval of the new drug is “kind of a big deal in terms of our overall arsenal against flu,” Pavia says.

2-22-18 A powerful new flu drug
As Americans cope with the worst flu season in a decade, the Japanese drug maker Shionogi says it has developed a new drug that can kill the flu virus within one day. In a human trial, just one dose of the experimental drug, known as baloxavir marboxil, cleared the virus three times faster than Tamiflu, which must be taken twice daily for five days. “The data that we’ve seen looks very promising,” the World Health Organization’s Martin Howell Friede tells The Wall Street Journal. “This could be a breakthrough in the way that we treat influenza.” When the flu virus enters our bodies, it hijacks cells and forces them to replicate the virus, making us very sick. Antivirals, including Tamiflu, help by preventing these flu “copies” from escaping the cells where they were manufactured. Shionogi’s drug takes a more direct approach, preventing the virus from taking control of cells in the first place. The fast-acting drug could make the virus less contagious and provide patients with more immediate symptom relief. The drug is fast-tracked for approval in Japan. Shionogi plans to apply for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this summer.

Influenza 1918
The Worst Epidemic in American History

Sioux Falls Scientists endorse Influenza 1918 for showing us how horrible
epidemics could be and how far we've come in health care since 1918.