Influenza Over Time

These days influenza, otherwise know as the flu isn’t really thought of as a life-threatening disease. It’s a normal part of some people’s lives, and can easily be cured within a few days or weeks of a few doses of medicine. But have you ever thought of what it may have been like before our modern day medicine existed? In this timeline, I will describe how and when it was first appeared, the research done involving it, to the modern day flu and the preventions today as we know it. By: Alyssa Brown


Russian Flu

1889 - 1890

This is the first known, documented case of a flu pandemic. Not much is know about it compared to other cases. It caused approximately 1 millions deaths, spreading from Russia where it originated, to Europe, then North America and South America. It is thought to be caused by H2N2. (Pandemic Influenza)

Spanish Flu Pandemic

1918 - 1920

This pandemic is know as one of the world's worst in history. It infected almost 1/5 of the world , killing 10-20% of the people infected, 3-6% of the entire world. (Taubenberger) That's almost 100 million people. It was caused by a virus that would later cause another outbreak, H1N1. Unlike most diseases that occurred most fatally against the very young and very old, Spanish Flu preyed on those 20-40 most frequently. (Schoenstadt)

Asian Flu

1957 - 1958

This outbreak originated in China, with one speculation is that this H2N2 virus came from ducks who were mutated mixing with "pre-existing human strain". (Greene) Death rates include around 2 million globally, and almost 70,000 in the United States. The elderly were the people at highest risk for this disease. (Szczepanski)

Hong Kong Flu

1968 - 1969

Occurring a bit more than a decade after the previous outbreak in Asia, this type of flu is also very similar. Only one antigen changed , from H2N2 to H3N2, and as a result, the virus spread very quickly. It first was thought to have occurred in pigs, then entering human carriers when consumed. It was widespread, but had a much lower amount of deaths caused. (Szczepanski)

Swine Flu

2009 - 2010

This is the most recent Flu Pandemic, and by far the least threatening to the world. Not only have our frequent medical advances proven the disease to be easily vaccinated and treated, but less people caught it in general. There was a low amount deaths, the lowest of any influenza outbreak in history, a rate of 0.03% fatality. (Donaldson) It was caused by the same sub-virus as the Spanish Flu, H1N1. (MacKenzie)


Factor Discovered?


Richard Pfeiffer, a German physician born in 1958, had separated bacteria from a sample, and believed it to be the cause of the disease. This bacteria is now know as Haemophilus influenzae. It was accepted widely at the time, but other scientists later proved that the influenza virus is also caused by more than just this singular bacteria. Also, it was found out that this type did not always occur in every single case of influenza. It may be one factor, but not completely necessary. "Dissenters argued that other types of bacteria could be isolated from influenza cases, and pointed to strains of streptococcal, pneumococcal, and other bacteria as potential causes." (Spanish Influenza Pandemic and Vaccines)

1957 Flu Vaccine

August 1957

Unlike the 1981 Flue, the Asian Flu was quickly linekd to H2N2 and vaccines were distributed, although in rather low supply. It was difficult to give out, and this caused not many people to be given it before they received the virus. (1957 Asian Flu Pandemic)

1918 Flu Investigation

1997 - 2005

In 1997, scientists who were still curious of the mass pandemic in 1918, managed to find genetic material of the virus preserved in a frozen victim. They managed to identify the structure of the virus for the first time. In 1999, according to PBS, "the AFIP reported that after completely analyzing a critical gene from the 1918 influenza virus their researchers had determined that the 1918 virus apparently evolved in mammals over a period of years before it matured into a virus strong enough to kill millions." In this investigation, one key gene was mapped. Hemagglutinin allowed the influenza to form, and closely resembles mammal genes.

1918 Flu: Death Causes


"The majority of deaths during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 were not caused by the influenza virus acting alone, report researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. Instead, most victims succumbed to bacterial pneumonia following influenza virus infection. The pneumonia was caused when bacteria that normally inhabit the nose and throat invaded the lungs along a pathway created when the virus destroyed the cells that line the bronchial tubes and lungs." (Oplinger)

Universal Flu Vaccine Research


"Schrader, a professor in Medicine and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has evidence that a vaccine based on a mixture of influenza viruses not circulating in humans but in animals should have the same effect. “Current flu vaccines target the head of the HA to prevent infections, but because the flu virus mutates very quickly, this part of the HA changes rapidly, hence the need for different vaccines every flu season.” This has the potential to make influenza pandemics and seasonal influenza a thing of the past." (Lin)


Spanish Flu Preventations


During that time, the majority of people had no idea what to do to prevent this disease. They knew that it spread through germ particles in the air by sneezing and coughing, and proper ventalation was going to be a must in all places. As a result, many public gatherings and celebrations were cancelled, along with several public places being shut down for the time being.In the United States, the Committee of the American Public Health Association banned any unnecessary large gatherings. Even funerals, but with the amount of deaths going on at the time, there wasn't even enough time for all the funerals. School closings were frequently debated as to whether it was worth it to keep children safe, over the loss of their education. In some states in the U.S, the sick were kept under quarantine and kept away from those who haven't caught the virus. Special wards in hospitals were set aside specifically for those with the disease, and sheets were hung around the patient's bed. A trick that the public picked up from doctors includes making their own gauze masks to keep out germs, but this method didn't prove very effective. (Billings)

Modern Day Techniques


Standard everday precautions we should use today are:
-Wash your hands on a regular basis.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose, etc, anything on your face.
-Try to keep a distance away from people who you know are sick.
-Cough/Sneeze into your elbow to avoid spreading germs.
-Keep up with vaccinations, and visit your doctor every so often.