Canada's History - - THE PACKET - — Nancy Payne

One of the dead­li­est dis­eases in hu­man his­tory, the virus that caused the Span­ish flu is re­lated to the mod­ern H1N1 strain. The 1918 virus killed about 2.5 per cent of those in­fected, com­pared to a more typ­i­cal rate of 0.1 per cent for pre­vi­ous flu out­breaks. Named for the wide­spread death caused in Spain by an early wave of the dis­ease, the vir­u­lent 1918 strain may have orig­i­nated with a ge­netic shift in the flu virus in China. Many of the af­flicted thought they sim­ply had a cold, which pro­gressed to the usual flu symp­toms of fever, chills, aches, cough, con­ges­tion, and fa­tigue. Pneu­mo­nia of­ten fol­lowed. The ill­ness moved with grim speed — it wasn’t un­com­mon for suf­fer­ers to be dead within a day of first show­ing symp­toms. Un­like other epi­demics, the Span­ish flu was most deadly for those who were in good health and be­tween about twenty and forty years old. The virus caused a re­ac­tion that seemed to turn healthy peo­ple’s im­mune sys­tems against them. Vic­tims’ lungs filled with bloody, frothy liq­uid, and their faces turned blue as they drowned in their own flu­ids, suf­fo­cat­ing from a lack of oxy­gen.

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