A brief history of the Influenza

Emergency_hospital_during_Influenza_epidemic_Camp_Funston_Kansas_-_NCP_1603

Historical picture of the 1918 Spanish flu at Camp Funston, Kansas, showing the many ill patients. Source: WikiCommon

 

I would like to talk to you about the Influenza. My mother always told me: “Son, a small flu lasts a week and a big one lasts 7 days.” and she was right. Influenza is a respiratory infection that also spreads very easily. It is caused by the influenza virus.

The origin of the flu

Influenza hit human beings in China as early as around -2500 B.C. With birds, the virus goes back more than 8000 years ago.

Hippocrates had clearly described Influenza

In -2400, the writings of Hippocrates clearly describe the symptoms of the flu. And since then, history is full of influenza pandemics description. However, before 1850, the data are sometimes difficult to analyze because the symptoms of flu are similar to other diseases such as diphtheria, bubonic plague, typhoid fever and others.

Major known influenza pandemics

Major known flu pandemics
Pandemic Date Death Subtype involved Severity Index
Asian Flu (Russia) 1889–1890 1 million H2N2 ? ?
Spanish Flu 1918–1920 30 à 100 millions H1N1 5
Asian Flu 1957–1958 1 à 1,5 millions H2N2 2
Hong Kong Flu 1968–1969 0,75 à 1 million H3N2 2
A (H1N1) Flu 2009–2010 18 138 H1N1

Discovery of the virus

It was long thought that influenza was caused by bacteria. In 1931, the virus was identified in pigs and two years later, in 1933, humans from levy on the throat of a researcher contaminated with the flu.

Discovery of the vaccine

In 1935, we managed to “grow” the virus in embryonated chicken eggs. The first clinical trials between 1936 and 1938 are inconclusive. In 1944, with support from the US Army, we obtained the first effective vaccine based on influenza virus. Research has continued since.

The vaccine in Quebec for 2014-2015 is available since November

The injectable vaccine against influenza 2014-2015 offered in the program framework contains the following three strains:

  • A / California / 7/2009 (H1N1)
  • A / Texas / 50/2012 (H3N2)
  • B / Massachusetts / 2/2012
  • The intranasal vaccine contains four strains or B / Brisbane / 60/2008 in addition to the same three strains contained in the vaccine injection.

Even if you have been vaccinated against the flu last year, you still need to receive it this year. Indeed, antibody levels fall about 6 months after vaccination against influenza, particularly in people whose immune system is weakened.

The index of influenza activity in Quebec for the week of 7 to 13 December 2014 (CDC 14-50) is HIGH tends UPWARD.

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Preventive measure against the flu

If we can not escape it, there is still prevention methods:

  • It maintains a proper hygiene program (particularly hand washing).
  • It is vaccinated.
  • This ensures clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.

For more info on how to fight a flu epidemic (or pandemic if it degenerates there), see this presentation (in french):

sources:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grippe
http://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/sujets/prob_sante/influenza/index.php?accueil

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