Sphere of influenza

This news item caught my eye the other day (in a wire version);  I thought Philippine news organizations should have given it more attention. The Washington Post round-up includes the following chilling paragraphs.

The Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people around the world in slightly more than a year — late winter 1918 into the spring of 1919. Researchers have never figured out what made the virus so lethal, in part because there were no samples to study. Although viruses had been discovered by 1918, the flu virus was not isolated until 1933.

With the genome of 13,600 nucleotides known and published in the journals Science and Nature, the 1918 virus is already shedding light on its own history. It was a bird virus that appears to have become a human virus through the slow accumulation of mutations, not through the sudden trading of genes with another flu strain.

It is also illuminating the possible future of viruses that are worrying flu experts now. Some of the H5N1 "bird flu" strains seen recently in 10 Asian countries carry a few of the mutations seen in the 1918 virus, suggesting that they, too, may be slowly adapting to human hosts.

Fifty million? Worse than Hitler or  Stalin, almost as bad as Mao!

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3 Comments

Filed under Readings in Media

3 responses to “Sphere of influenza

  1. Jojo Abinales

    John, probably the flu was less worse than Stalin, Hitler or Mao. Apart from the millions these trio slaughtered, they left deadly legacies that traumatized not only the families of their victims but even those whose lives were only marginal to their political rule. And in one of those grotesquely bizarre outcomes, there are still people today who long for the glory days of Hitler, Stalin and Mao (in the Philippines you have Mao and Stalin fans even inside the Halls of Congress!). I doubt however if you can find advocates for the return of the flu.

  2. Yes, I see. The totalitarian virus was and remains much more, well, virulent.

  3. Jojo

    Indeed….just ask Crispin Beltran (who, by the way, defended the massacre at Tienanmen Square)

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