Could a Pandemic Like the Spanish Flu Happen Again?


A century has passed since the largest flu epidemic in recorded history has killed millions of people around the world, with a death toll that was larger than the one caused by the bubonic plague.

As it was ravaging the world between 1918 and 1919 some researchers believed that it may have been caused by bacteria instead of a virus. Science progressed and we know a lot more about viruses today, but it has also learned a lot from observing the how the pandemic developed and spread.

One distinctive feature was the ability to infect young and healthy adults, in comparison to modern flu which is more dangerous for senior citizens. It is believed that older people may have previously encountered a tamer strain of the virus, which gave them a variable grade of immunity.

A wealth of medical memoirs paints a grim portrait as it focuses on the pandemic. Doctors were fascinated by the speed at which the virus spread and discouraged by the fact that they couldn’t help their patients.

According to an expert on flu, what kills is not the flu itself; the culprits are the lethal complications that often follow it. Since they didn’t have the modern antibiotics used today, it was obvious that the patients died faster. Another surprising factor  was the overreaction of the immunity system, particularly in the case of in young and healthy people.  In many cases, severe immune system reactions, which sometimes flooded the lungs of the patient with liquid, killed them before the flu could fully develop.

An obvious question arises: are we better prepared today, if a pandemic suddenly appeared? The answer is yes and no. While improved medical technology will keep the patients alive for a longer time, if the disease goes global, there is little we can do in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The potential for a pandemic is out there, as flu strains and other viruses continue to evolve and adapt.


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