Present day outbreaks of influenza are often examples of the swine flu type versus the Spanish influenza, which saw its major outbreak nearly a century ago. Back in 1918, the Spanish Influenza became an epidemic when people aged 20-40 became victims to this horrible outbreak. The epidemic became a pandemic when it reached other continents and became worldwide.
Back in October of 1918 there was reporting from the nations capital, Washington, D.C. that flu cases were increasing at Army camps in the United States. By late October a Veterans Home in Napa became quarantined after eight cases of the flu were reported. A journal newspaper reported on its front page headlines that public places were banned from people gathering. People were ordered to stay home if they became ill; they could not go to work.
Quickly headlines became about the Spanish Influenza and how it claimed another victim. Masks were worn as preventive measure and by October 24th, it was a requirement. Drugstores remained open on Sundays to assist with helpful measures in prevention and/or symptoms for the public. A vaccine was in the making from Boston. By the end of October, the flu frenzy began to wane but it wasn’t until late November that people in Napa saw the headlines change. California saw deaths into 1919 but the worst was over. It is noted that the world disaster of 1918 killed approximately 20-40 million people.
Advance forward to February 2014 and the deaths from flu rose considerably last week in California. It appears it may even be reaching the death total from all of last year. California confirmed 45 flu deaths last month in adults and is looking into deaths from 50 others. Two deaths in January were from children. Seventeen people have died from the San Francisco Bay Area alone.
A year ago at this time there was only five deaths from the flu. Experts are blaming the swine flu, from the subtype H1N1 as the culprit. This type of flu began in 2009 and has been around but now it has re-emerged and has become the main type again.
Very often the flu is harder on adults older than age 65 and, of course, the very young. For some reason, folks older than 50, have some type of protection against the swine flu; maybe because of exposure from long ago. California began collecting data on flu deaths and hospitalizations after the epidemic in 2009.
Karen Anderson, a manager for infection prevention and control works at California Pacific Medical Center and says its too soon to measure against last year, even though it seems more people are coming in especially in January. She advises people who haven’t yet to still get a flu shot and that protection should be effective within a week. Once again people who are sick should stay home. Everyone should wash their hands.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta reports that the flu outbreak has dropped in some states recently, but that California has had 147 deaths for this season with four from children, compared to last year with 106 deaths total for the season. They are up considerably with 40-50 more deaths under investigation.
Ten states have reported high flu-like symptoms or illnesses, with California, Texas and Virginia among those heavily infected. This is according to the CDC who monitors these outbreaks reported from the U.S. World Health Organization and other collecting laboratories. The swine flu, which has been around since 2009 or possibly greater than fifty years ago (as older folks seem to be less vulnerable) has been a serious threat to peoples lives, but does not compare to the Spanish Influenza nearly a century ago.
By Kim Troike