In­fluenza pan­demic, 100 years later


Sarah Zhang, The At­lantic:

“Sev­eral fac­tors have come to­gether to make this year’s flu worse for pa­tients who get sick and for hos­pi­tals try­ing to treat them. ... The dom­i­nant cir­cu­lat­ing strain this year is H3N2, which hits hu­mans harder than other strains. ... Hos­pi­tals are deal­ing with more flu pa­tients at the same time that they’re run­ning out of IV bags, (which) along with a lot of other med­i­cal equip­ment, are man­u­fac­tured in Puerto Rico. Hur­ri­cane Maria mas­sively dis­rupted man­u­fac­tur­ing on the is­land. The plants mak­ing IV bags have re­con­nected to the power grid, but hos­pi­tals are still not get­ting a re­li­able sup­ply.”

Lance Gable, STAT:

“This year also marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the 1918 in­fluenza pan­demic. This pan­demic was the worst flu out­break in his­tory, killing tens of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world. ... The 1918 in­fluenza strain was un­usu­ally deadly be­cause hu­mans had not been ex­posed widely to the H1N1 strain of the virus. It over­whelmed our naive im­mune sys­tems. What’s more, in­fluenza vac­cines and other mod­ern med­i­cal treat­ments had not yet been de­vel­oped and in­fec­tion con­trol strate­gies were poorly un­der­stood. The spread of the dis­ease was also fu­eled by troop move­ments con­nected with World War I. ... De­spite progress over the past century, the world re­mains un­pre­pared for an in­fluenza pan­demic. But, with a higher level of com­mit­ment and at­ten­tion, we can greatly im­prove our pan­demic re­sponse sys­tems and save lives.”

Carter John­son, Press Pub­li­ca­tions:

“Should we be shak­ing hands this time of year? ... The more peo­ple who ac­cept a fist bump or a nod as the so­cial norm vs. a hand­shake, the better off we all will be dur­ing the flu sea­son.”

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