Saturday, August 23, 2008

French or American Disease... that killed millions.

Last week, NPR had a fascinating report on the Spanish Flu in 1918 - the not-so-well-known disease that killed more people than World War I : an estimated death toll of 50 million people (or even a 100 million),compared to 40 million for the war - which represented 2.5 to 5% of the human population, with 20% or more of the world population suffering from the disease to some extent.

(About 25 % of the US population was infected, with perhaps 650,000 people dying from the virus.)

"Spanish flu" is an interesting name for it since, for one, it had nothing to do with Spain:
That name probably came from the fact that only Spain was publishing news about local flu epidemics; there was a blackout on news that might lower morale in Germany, Britain and France.
And now, research indicates that it might even not have been a flu at all (but a bacterial disease). This is actually good news for us:

The new research suggests that with the availability of effective treatments for bacterial infections, a modern-day flu pandemic might not be so deadly.

Why post about this? Well, because the current debate of the origin of the disease is that it started either in America's heartland or in France (the latter being the British army's favorite while some suggest it was nurnured by the British Empire).


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