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Avian Influenza, the new Spanish flu of 1918?

Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2018 4:37 PM EDT
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Avian Influenza, the new Spanish flu of 1918?

The flu epidemic of 1918 was one of the worst diseases that Americans have had to face. The virus killed an estimated 20 million people in the US and other countries. The United States lost over a 500,000 people between September 1918 and June 1919. Even now no one really knows why the Virus was so deadly.

Dubbed the Spanish flu, like most flus, it started with aches and the fever. The disease turned it's victim's faces black, the bottom of their feet turned black and they started coughing blood. In days, sometimes hours, those infected with the disease would drown, their lungs filled with a bloody liquid. Almost everyone caught the flu in one form or another. 2.5 percent of it's victims died, making it almost 25 times more deadly then any other flu to date. The Spanish flu left behind more questions then were answered. For instance why did mostly young healthy people have a harder time with the disease. And why did it never reappear?

Researchers are still looking for those answers, and some new answers may be coming to light. Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of the deadly 1918 "Spanish flu," which swept the globe and killed an estimated 20 to 40 million people. Among their findings: The 1918 virus strain developed in birds and was similar to the "bird flu" that today has spurred fears of another worldwide epidemic. By studying the once deadly 1918 virus's genetic information, scientists may become better able to predict future pandemics, or widespread epidemics.

It may also aid the development of new vaccines, antiviral medicines, and other treatments to cope with flus. Another study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that combining pieces of the 1918 strain with a mouse flu virus results in a very lethal flu. Health officials worry that another scenario, like the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, may be developing in Asia.

That area of the world is currently experiencing a massive avian influenza outbreak. Which has infected hundreds of millions of birds and 76 confirmed human avian influenza related deaths. So far the disease isn't known to have developed into a strain that can easily pass from person to person. This however is one of the biggest fears, that the H5N1 strain will somehow combine with a human flu virus and cause a potentially uncontrollable pandemic among people.

This article is combined from information received from,

CDC
WHO
NPR
And numerous other sources.

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