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BIO 500 W2 Discussion Question Two
BIO 500 W2 Discussion Question Two
Assume you are working for a local public health organization at the state level. Your team wants to develop a program to prepare for a possible pandemic that is spreading worldwide. View, “Laurie Garrett on Lessons From the 1918 Flu.” How could knowledge of the course objectives help you make recommendations to your organization?
The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.
It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic.
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While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.
For decades, the 1918 virus was lost to history, a relic of a time when the understanding of infectious pathogens and the tools to study them were still in their infancy. Following the 1918 pandemic, generations of scientists and public health experts were left with only the epidemiological evidence of the 1918 pandemic virus’ lethality and the deleterious impact it had on global populations. A small ocean-side village in Alaska called Brevig Mission would become both testament to this deadly legacy as well as crucial to the 1918 virus’ eventual discovery.
Today, fewer than 400 people live in Brevig Mission, but in the fall of 1918, around 80 adults lived there, mostly Inuit Natives. While different narratives exist as to how the 1918 virus came to reach the small village – whether by traders from a nearby city who traveled via dog-pulled sleds or even by a local mail delivery person – its impact on the village’s population is well documented. During the five-day period from November 15-20, 1918, the 1918 pandemic claimed the lives of 72 of the villages’ 80 adult inhabitants.
Later, at the order of the local government, a mass grave site marked only by small white crosses was created on a hill beside the village – a grim monument to a community all but erased from existence. The grave was frozen in permafrost and left untouched until 1951. That year, Johan Hultin, a 25-year-old Swedish microbiologist and Ph.D. student at the University of Iowa, set out on an expedition to Brevig Mission in the hopes of finding the 1918 virus and in the process unearth new insights and answers. Hultin believed that within that preserved burial ground he might still find traces of the 1918 virus itself, frozen in time within the tissues of the villagers whose lives it had claimed.
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