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Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 was Caused by Bird to Human Transmission

October 5th 2005

Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 was Caused by Bird to Human Transmission

Avian Flu Pandemic

Scientists have discovered that the devastating Spanish Flu influenza pandemic (also known as the H1N1) of 1918 that killed between 10 and 20 million people was caused by a virus that jumped from birds to humans.  The virus was significantly different from a normal flu virus and this may explain why it was so devastating. 

Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control used lung tissue from two soldiers and an Alaskan woman who died in the 1918 pandemic in their reconstruction.  They used genetic sequencing to synthesize the virus.  Then they injected the virus into mice and human lung tissue at a secure laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The Pandemics of 1957 and 1968 were not as severe because the flu was caused by a human virus that picked up a few genetic elements of a bird flu.  The influenza of 1918 was caused by a bird flu that jumped to humans.


The H5N1 avian influenza that has killed humans in South East Asia recently is caused by a virus that has jumped from bird to human. Since 1997 bird flocks in 11 countries have been decimated by a flu outbreak, according to the New York Times.  . 

So far over 60 people have died from the new flu and over 100 have been infected.  The Times also noted that there has been “little transmission between people”.   The 1918 virus was very infectious and was easily passed from human to human.  

National Geographic had an article this month warning their readers of another possible pandemic.  It could spread much quicker than the 1918 influenza because of our swifter mobility. Also there are so many more humans now compared to 1918 and according to the publication an outbreak could kill over 150 million humans.  

Once the pandemic hits anti-viral agents / medicines will be dispersed in countries that have them.  A vaccine will hopefully be available within 6 months after the outbreak.  We might be better prepared than we were in 1918.  The President will be meeting with vaccine manufacturers to work out the details of a plan if an outbreak occurs.

Some estimates have place the deaths in 1918 at 50 million.  The research is available in this month's journal Nature.


Related article:
H5N1 strain Avian Bird Flu found in Romania and Turkey
H5N1 strain Avian Bird Flu infects 4 year old Boy

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

Health Related Books

Keywords and misspellings: pan demic avean influensa H1N5 epidemic epademic epidimic pandemic pandimic


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:40 PM