03 August, 2007

1918. Hmmm 2018 is not far away.

It killed more people than several world wars, then vanished. The one year outbreak in 1918 - 1919 killed what was initially thought to be 40 million (!!!) to 50 million people but a more recent revision of these numbers says that figure is approximately double what was initially thought. Spanish Flu could very well have been the closest the human race came to a mass extinction event in recorded history. Let me put this into perspective for you. It is now believed that between 80,000,000 and 100,000,000 people lost their lives to that microscopic killer. That's between four and five times the population of Australia...

The Spanish Flu (or "La Grippe" or "Swine Flu" as it was also variously known) was one variant in the dance between predators and prey, and we weren't the predators in that round... That variant is still latent within the structure of today's viruses and can emerge again, and of course there are any number of other variants which could become even more efficient infectors. It produced extreme symptoms that masked their activity and caused the virus to be misdiagnosed by the much lesser medical knowledge of the time, puzzling doctors. One of the killers was the bacterial pneumonic and bronchial illnesses that resulted from the way the virus acted.

And I'm mentioning that because I believe that I've just survived the great great grandchild of that virus. As you may know, here in Western Australia we have had four young lives cut short by the virus and the bacterial infections it engendered, and in Queensland now, another child has lost the fight. And no-one has checked on how many of the older and more infirm have passed on from pneumonic infections this flu season, and how many of those were attributable to this new virus strain. I'm not even a little sure of any of this, because I am not an epidemiologist, but I think it should be investigated by one.

All I have to go on is the fact that I have never had a flu lay me low for over three weeks, almost four weeks in fact. And five children have been killed by a flu. And an unknown number of seniors. It may not be the global pandemic this year that Spanish Flu was back at the start of last century. But it's early days, and certainly the last 20 years have marked an ever increasing virulence...

One last thought: If anyone is a medical person out there, can the blood of person who has fended off a virus be used to produce an antibody that can be grown and used to inoculate those most at risk? Because if so I need to get me to a laboratory.

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