The Spooky Season continues! Welcome back to another week of "The Spookiest Sicknesses" series. For this frightening story, we're taking a look at a disease that threatens us every year. But this nightmare disease created even more terror just over 100 years ago. Known by many names, such as the Three-Day Fever and The Purple Death, this nightmare altered the world between 1918 and 1920 as the world faced the second most deadly pandemic in history: INFLUENZA.
HOW IT BEGAN
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918, more commonly called the Spanish Flu, is a well known pandemic in history. This very severe sickness was caused by the influenza virus. Research shows that this virus, despite the name, this disease most likely began in the United States, and cases were noted in Fort Riley, Kansas as early as March of 1918. But the pandemic really began to worsen due to World War 1. As you can tell from the name, this was a war that involved soldiers from many different countries. As the soldiers returned to their home countries, they unknowingly took the virus with them and spread it far and wide. During the next few years, this nightmare began to unfold.
HOW IT WORKS
The 1918 flu is believed to be caused by the influenza A virus, H1N1. What exactly does H1N1 mean? To break it down, H and N are
the symbols scientists have given to some of the proteins found on the outside of the virus. In this case, H stands for hemagglutinin and N stands for neuraminidase. These proteins make it stand out against other types of influenza viruses (like influenza B and C). With all the different possible protein combinations , there are 144 unique (different) influenza A viruses. You are probably wondering what made this specific version of the flu so dangerous? We mentioned back in Part 1 that diseases can change randomly (mutate). This virus mutated with unexpected vengeance. Before the mutation, people who were affected didn't get very sick and the mortality (death) rate wasn’t much different from past flu seasons. Just a few months later, a mutated version, or strain, began to spread. This version had mutated so much that people's immune systems no longer recognized it as a typical flu virus and they were left defenseless. Their symptoms began as most flu cases do: fever, chills, and a sore throat. But the symptoms didn’t stop there. The unfortunate individuals could experience more life-
threatening symptoms such as high fevers (around 104°F), swelling of the brain (known medically as encephalitis), nosebleeds, and pneumonia. Pneumonia is a bacterial infection that could infect people more easily when they were already sick with the flu. It would cause patients lungs to fill up with fluid, preventing oxygen from going to the rest of the body (known as cyanosis) and essentially causing people to drown on their own fluids.
HOW IT WAS DEFEATED
Unlike the past two stories we covered, this sickness was not defeated through vaccinations.
Instead, extreme quarantines were put in place across the world. The quarantine efforts were enough to cause the disease to disappear completely before researchers could even isolate (or identify) it in a lab. But the damage was done. It’s estimated that 21 to 50 million people died due to this disease, truly making it one of history's SPOOKIEST SICKNESSES!
Question: The 1918 Flu Pandemic was caused by what strain of influenza?
Answer: Influenza A, H1N1
Question: How many waves did the 1918 Flu Pandemic have?
Question: How many unique Influenza A viruses are there?
Question: It's estimated that how many people died during the pandemic?
Answer: 21 to 50 million people
Question: What helped to end the pandemic?
Answer: World-Wide Quarantines
Thank you again for reading this weeks' horrifying history! Come back next time for our final edition of the SPOOKIEST SICKNESSES!