Tuesday, May 5, 2009
91 years ago in 1918, a deadly infleunza virus outbreak was reported to have killed between 70 million to 100 million people worldwide, or one third the population of Europe, in just 2 years.
Known as the Grim Reaper, it was one of the worst pandemic to ever hit the world.
Hopefully the effect of the current H1N1 virus is not as catastrophic as the 1918 Spanish Influenza.
Here is some information on the deadly 1918 flu outbreak (source - wikipedia).
The 1918 flu pandemic (commonly referred to by the misnomer Spanish influenza) was an influenza pandemic that spread to nearly every part of the world. It was caused by an unusually virulent and deadly Influenza A virus strain.
Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify the geographic origin of the virus.
Most of its victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or otherwise weakened patients. The flu pandemic has also been implicated in the sudden outbreak of Encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s.
The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. It is estimated that anywhere from 70 to 100 million people were killed worldwide, or the approximate equivalent of one third of the population of Europe, more than double the number killed in World War I.
This extraordinary toll resulted from the extremely high illness rate of up to 50% and the extreme severity of the symptoms, suspected to be caused by cytokine storms.
The pandemic is estimated to have affected up to one billion people: more than half the world's population at the time.
Scientists have used tissue samples from frozen victims to reproduce the virus for study. Given the strain's extreme virulence there has been controversy regarding the wisdom of such research. Among the conclusions of this research is that the virus kills via a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body's immune system) which explains its unusually severe nature and the concentrated age profile of its victims. The strong immune systems of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults caused fewer deaths.
The global mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but it is estimated that 2.5 to 5% of those who were infected died.
Note this does not mean that 2.5-5% of the human population died; with 20% or more of the world population suffering from the disease to some extent, a case-fatality ratio this high would mean that about 0.5-1% ( ≈50 million) of the whole population died. Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million in its first 25 weeks.
Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people while current estimates say 50 million to 100 million people worldwide were killed. This pandemic has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have killed more people than the Black Death.
As many as 17 million died in India, about 5% of India's population at the time.
In Japan, 23 million persons were affected, and 390,000 died. In the U.S., about 28% of the population suffered, and 500,000 to 675,000 died.In Britain as many as 250,000 died; in France more than 400,000. In Canada approximately 50,000 died. Entire villages perished in Alaska and southern Africa.[which?]
Estimates for the fatalities in the capital city, Addis Ababa, range from 5,000 to 10,000, with some experts opining that the number was even higher, while in British Somaliland one official there estimated that 7% of the native population died from influenza.
In Australia an estimated 12,000 people died and in the Fiji Islands, 14% of the population died during only two weeks, and in Western Samoa 22%.
This huge death toll was caused by an extremely high infection rate of up to 50% and the extreme severity of the symptoms, suspected to be caused by cytokine storms.
Indeed, symptoms in 1918 were so unusual that initially influenza was misdiagnosed as dengue, cholera, or typhoid. One observer wrote, "One of the most striking of the complications was hemorrhage from mucous membranes, especially from the nose, stomach, and intestine. Bleeding from the ears and petechial hemorrhages in the skin also occurred."
The majority of deaths were from bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection caused by influenza, but the virus also killed people directly, causing massive hemorrhages and edema in the lung.
After the lethal second wave struck in the fall of 1918, the explosion of disease ended abruptly. New cases almost dropped to nothing after the peak in the second wave.
In Philadelphia for example, 4,597 people died in the week ending October 16th; by November 11th however, influenza had almost disappeared entirely from the city. One explanation for the rapid decline of the lethality of the disease is that doctors simply got better at preventing and treating the pneumonia which developed after the victims had contracted the virus, although John Barry states in his book that researchers have found no evidence to support this.
Another theory states that the 1918 virus has, like all influenza viruses, mutated extremely rapidly to a less lethal strain. There is a general trend for pathogenic viruses to become less lethal as time went on in order to become more contagious. According to this theory, this simply occured on a very rapid rate for the 1918 virus.
Frightening. God protects us.