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The Spanish Influenza Pandemic: a lesson from history 100 years after 1918

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  • The Spanish Influenza Pandemic: a lesson from history 100 years after 1918

    J Prev Med Hyg. 2019 Mar 29;60(1):E64-E67. doi: 10.15167/2421-4248/jpmh2019.60.1.1205. eCollection 2019 Mar.
    The Spanish Influenza Pandemic: a lesson from history 100 years after 1918.

    Martini M1,2, Gazzaniga V3, Bragazzi NL4, Barberis I4.
    Author information

    Abstract

    In Europe in 1918, influenza spread through Spain, France, Great Britain and Italy, causing havoc with military operations during the First World War. The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed more than 50 million people worldwide. In addition, its socioeconomic consequences were huge. "Spanish flu", as the infection was dubbed, hit different age-groups, displaying a so-called "W-trend", typically with two spikes in children and the elderly. However, healthy young adults were also affected. In order to avoid alarming the public, several local health authorities refused to reveal the numbers of people affected and deaths. Consequently, it was very difficult to assess the impact of the disease at the time. Although official communications issued by health authorities worldwide expressed certainty about the etiology of the infection, in laboratories it was not always possible to isolate the famous Pfeiffer's bacillus, which was, at that time, deemed to be the cause of influenza. The first official preventive actions were implemented in August 1918; these included the obligatory notification of suspected cases and the surveillance of communities such as day-schools, boarding schools and barracks. Identifying suspected cases through surveillance, and voluntary and/or mandatory quarantine or isolation, enabled the spread of Spanish flu to be curbed. At that time, these public health measures were the only effective weapons against the disease, as no vaccines or antivirals were available. Virological and bacteriological analysis of preserved samples from infected soldiers and other young people who died during the pandemic period is a major step toward a better understanding of this pandemic and of how to prepare for future pandemics.


    KEYWORDS:

    Flu; History of Pandemic; Mortality rate; Public Health

    PMID: 31041413 PMCID: PMC6477554 DOI: 10.15167/2421-4248/jpmh2019.60.1.1205
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