One hundred years after the massive deaths from the 1 918 flu pandemic, flu is still a serious and fatal…
One hundred years after the massive deaths from the 1
918 flu pandemic, flu is still a serious and fatal disease, says Professor Christopher Brooke. Influenza and new antiviral treatments can help counter another pandemic. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer
Fall 2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, which infected approximately one third of the world’s population and killed more than 50 million people, including 675,000 in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza still has no cure today, but newer vaccines and antiviral treatments can help counter another fatal outcome, says Professor Christopher Brooke University of Illinois. An expert on the influenza virus and how it adjusts, Brooke discussed the severity of the flu today and how the flu potato works in an interview with the biomedical editor of the news agency Liz Ahlberg Touchstone.
It seems that everyone gets the flu in the winter, and we see no effects as in 1918. What is the big deal? Is it still a danger to us today?
Many spleen infections are commonly referred to as the “flu”, which causes many to think of the flu as quite mild. Influenza infections may be mild and suspected of cold, or they may be very serious or even fatal, especially in the very young and very old. Infection of pregnant women often leads to severe infection and loss of pregnancy.
Thousands of people are killed and tens of billions of dollars are spent in the United States every year because of the flu. The best estimate for last year alone is that about 80,000 people died in the United States from influenza infections.
Can a pandemic occur in 1918 today, or should modern medicine counteract it?
The potential for Another catastrophic flu pandemic is still very real. Our understanding of the virus and the ability to detect it is much greater than 1918, so we can better introduce quarantine and other measures to minimize the spread. But the world is much more interconnected than it was in 1918, which allowed viruses spread all over the world much faster than they could a century ago.
What’s in the flu foot? Why should I have one?
The influenza virus contains fragments of the four strains of influenza virus believed to be circulating in humans this year and teaches that your immune system should recognize and protect you from these viruses.
Everyone should get a vaccine because it both protects you from getting sick or at least reduces the severity of the infection and prevents you from transmitting the virus to other people in society. This is especially important because the consequences of infection can be very bleak for many people – for example, elderly, pregnant women and people treated for cancer.
I received the flu fountain last year and still got sick. How effective are the shots in preventing infection?
Influenza rejections do not always prevent infection, but they always limit the severity and duration of infection and the ability to transfer to others. In addition, many people get sick from other viruses and bacteria during the flu season. Just because you got sick does not mean that the vaccine does not protect you.
Why do we have to get new flu shots every year? With other vaccines once is enough.
We need new vaccines every year because the virus is constantly evolving. The virus that circulates next year will differ from what you get vaccinated against this year. For other reasons we do not understand, other viruses we target to vaccines are not as good as flu in development to outperform our immune systems.
How can new treatments like Tamiflu help? When should anyone search them?
Tamiflu, and the newly approved drug Xofluza, may limit the duration of the infection if given early. If you have any risk factor for influenza infection – either under 2 or over 65 years, pregnancy, weakened immune system or chronic disease – and develop flu-like symptoms, consult your doctor.
Lessons from the influenza pandemic 1918, 100 years on