A Historical Guide To Flu Outbreak Biology Essay

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Over the past years, Flu has become pandemic all over the world and it gotten worst as years goes by. With the advancing of scientific technology, diagnosing this disease has become straight forward; therefore meeting new medications to combat it. Flu is not just a minor disease, it is very contagious and it's really hard to avoid it especially with those people who have a weak immune system. There are a lot of ways to avoid and prevent catching the flu. People should have just to be aware of how it spreads out and the symptoms of having it so they can avoid it or apply the proper medication to kill the virus right away.

What is Flu?

Flu is a short term for influenza (Definition, 1998). Flu has three major types; Type A, Type B, and Type C. The flu virus was first identified in the 1930's. Influenza is a respiratory illness that is caused by bacteria, viruses, and sometimes parasites. The Flu is an extremely contagious and usually a mild disease in healthy children, middle-aged and young adults but it can also be life threatening for older adults and for people who have chronic illnesses such as heart, lung or kidney diseases and diabetes. This disease affects thousands of people including adults and kids every year. And this respiratory infection that spreads easily from person to person mainly by an infected person who sneezes or coughs. Each year, thousands of people die simply because of flu and complication related to flu.

Flu Symptoms

There are several symptoms of flu including fever, body aches, sever pain in the joints, muscles and around the eyes, generalized weakness, cough, fatigue, sore throat and sometimes runny nose and children may also have other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea but they're very uncommon with adults. Flu season is usually during winter and early springs and flu mostly attacks the body by spreading the virus through the upper and lower respiratory tract.

Types of Flu

There are three types of flu namely Type A, Type B, and Type C. Type A viruses can be found in many kinds of animals including chickens, pigs, ducks, whales and human. Type A flu viruses are subdivided into groups based on two surface proteins, HA and NA. Scientists have characterized 16 HA subtypes and 9 NA subtypes of the flu virus (Schoenstadt, 2008). Type A viruses are capable of infecting people as well as animals and this flu is constantly changing and is generally responsible for the large flu epidemics. Type B virus circulates in humans and it does not cause pandemics. It may cause less severe reaction than Type A virus yet it could still be extremely harmful. And Type C has also been found in humans, pigs, and dogs and it is classify as just a mild respiratory infection. It is not bad as Type A and B virus and it do not cause epidemics.

Major Flu Outbreaks

1918 Spanish Influenza

Type A influenza is the most frightening of the three flu types. It is believed to be responsible for the global outbreaks of 1918, 1957, and 1968. The 1918 influenza pandemic is the catastrophe against which all modern flu's are measured. It killed more people than the Great War also known as World War 1, between 20 and 40 million people were killed worldwide; about 500,000 Americans died in the United States alone. The influenza or "Spanish Flu" has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in the world history. A fifth of the world's population was infected by this flu. It was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. During the war in Europe, many of our U.S. soldiers died, half of them died because of the influenza virus. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association final edition; 1918 was the most unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace. The effect of the "Spanish Flu" was so severe that cause the average of life span in the United States was depressed by 10 years. Women, men, adults, and children had experienced and shared their stories of seeing people on the street suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours.

"The 1918 has gone: a year momentous as the termination of the most cruel war in the annals of the human race; a year which marked, the end at least for a time, of man's destruction of man; unfortunately a year in which developed a most fatal infectious disease causing the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all--infectious disease," (Billings, 1997).

1957 Asian Flu

In 1957 and 1968, the "Asian Flu" and "Hong Kong Flu" invaded the United States (Schoenstadt, 2009). The 1957 Asian influenza was a whole much milder disease than 1918 influenza. The number of death was estimated to be around 2 million, the flu pandemic resulted in about 70,000 deaths in United States and 30,000 deaths occurred in England. February 1957 in Far East Asia is where the first Asian influenza pandemic identified. The disease was rare in people less than 65 years of age. The vaccine production to prevent the spread of the disease began in late May 1957 and the health officials increased surveillance for flu outbreaks. In June 1957, the first case of pandemic in United States occurred but there weren't community outbreaks until August. Unlike the virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, the 1957 flu was quickly identified because of the advances in scientific technology. The pandemic emergence and spread of the H2N2 virus (subtype of the virus circulating in 1968).

A series of small outbreaks came to United States over the summer. Infection rates were highest among school children, young adults, and pregnant women in October but the elderly has the highest rates of death. Most of the death occurred between September 1957 and March 1958. The virus spread within certain countries, the highest attack rates were seen in school. A published study found that during the outbreaks, school closures decreases the incidence of viral respiratory diseases and prevent children from acquiring the virus (Pike, 2009). The Asian flu reached in Britain, fifty percent of children in school had been diagnosed with influenza. Almost one-third of the nurses in the hospital were absent during the first 4 weeks of the epidemic. Hospitals could barely cope with the demand placed upon them. It was estimated between 25,000 and 30,000 more cases of the acute respiratory infection were admitted to the hospitals after of the first outbreak in U.K. Over 60 million doses of the vaccine had been produced in 1957 to help prevent the virus.

1968 Hong Kong Flu

The Hong Kong Flu also known as "H3N2" outbreaks began in 1968 which resulted in almost 34,000 deaths in United States. This pandemic is milder than the 1957 pandemic. The Hong Kong influenza was first detected in Hong Kong. During the first winter, it then spread worldwide and that caused greater morbidity in some countries. The first cases in the United States were diagnosed on September 1968, but if the virus didn't become a widespread in the U.S. until December of 1968. Just like with the 1918 and 1957 influenza outbreaks, the elderly has the highest rates of death. The year after, the same virus returned in late 1969 and early 1970. It was the mildest pandemic in the 20th century. The pandemic vaccine became available one month after the outbreaks peaked in the United States in 1968. Fewer people in the United States died due to the influenza virus and there were several possible reasons; first, the Hong Kong flu was similar in some ways to the Asian flu that circulated in 1957 and second, the flu outbreaks began during the school holidays in December, since children were at home and that way they didn't infect one another at school and so the number of children who get infected by the virus decreased. Third; with the help of higher scientific technology, medical care and antibiotics were more effective to fight the virus and become available for those who became ill (Pike, 2009).

1976 Swine Flu

On January 27, 1976, another outbreak of the flu virus was identified at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. In February 1976, a soldier named Private David Lewis collapsed and died during a five-mile, night march. The doctors had found out that the virus cause of pneumonia was the cause of David's death along with 4 other soldier's death. It was stated that these soldiers had been healthy and no indication of having a severe illness before. On that year, swine influenza virus also known as H1N1 was detected. According to the scientists, H1N1 might become as one of the big killer of that time just like the flu virus in 1918. On 24 March 1976 President Gerald R. Ford met with CDC, FDA, and NIH representatives and other experts. There was a unanimous recommendation to initiate mass immunization. It was voted by the Senate April 9, by the House April 12, and signed into law (Public Law 94-266) on April 15, 1976, providing over 135 million dollars for the swine flu program (Pike, 2009). The entire population of United States had the first attempt of the immunization. By June of the same year, no swine flu had shown up anywhere.

1977 Russian Flu

In 1977, another Flu Pandemic was diagnosed in Russia. It was the fourth pandemic in the 20th century. The Russian flu began on May 1977; the entire Northern China was isolated by the flu virus and that caused severe diseases with children and young adults worldwide. In 1978, the influenza viruses spread rapidly all over the world. Russian flu occurred mostly in the military and school populations in the United States starting in mid-January. Other countries had reported an outbreak of the same virus on the same year during the winter. The virus was similar to A/H1N1 viruses that circulated around 1957 and because of the timing of the appearance of the viruses; people who was born in 1957 are most likely to be exposed with the virus. The vaccine to prevent the virus was not produced on time, and according to CDC, the flu immunization would be completed by late November for program effectiveness. However, less than 600,000 doses had been administered and it is obviously not enough to cure everyone's illness.

2009 Nu Flu

In May 2009, another influenza virus was detected. That is the most current epidemic in the whole world. South America has confirmed its first case of the flu virus in Columbia. In the northern hemisphere, flu season runs from October to March while it runs from April to September on the southern hemisphere. There were 286 cases of flu cases that had been confirmed in the United States. According to the Department of Education, there were more than 430 schools that had been closed, affecting 245,000 students due to the virus infections. On the later date the CDC director had announced the spreading of the epidemic. Libraries, cafes, museums were forced to shut down but well re-open after of five days being closed. They have done some inspections to schools to make sure that they will not be infected with the virus when the school starts. That virus started in Mexico so some had suggested re-naming it as a "Mexican Influenza". In Mexico, 506 cases were reported to be infected by the virus, including 19 deaths. Schools, libraries and mostly of the public facilities were been shut down in order to prevent the spreading of the virus.

In 2009, the number of influenza cases had continues to risen in the United States. H1N1 flu killed 36,000 people in United States alone but most of the people who are infected by the virus had mild symptoms and one death had been recorded. On May 3 2009, 17 countries around the world had been reported 787 cases of influenza infection. Mexico had reported 506 confirmed human cases and 19 deaths. The United States Government reported 160 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new flu had spread to 30 US states and infected 226 people. The following countries reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths and that included the following countries; Austria, Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (Pike, 2009).

United States President Barack Obama's administration had taken more action to stop the outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu. He asked the congress to develop more vaccine to fight the flu strain. As day goes by, the outbreak continues to risen, 15 more countries had reported to have 615 cases of people who are infected by the virus. In Mexico, 397 were confirmed cases of the infection and that includes 16 deaths but they had suspected to have 2,500 more cases of the virus infection. U.S health officials had said that the virus were not as strong as the 1918 virus, which killed millions of people worldwide. Most people believe that you'll be infected by the virus if you eat pork because H1N1 started and came from the pigs but the World Health Organization stated that there is no risk of infection from consuming of well-cooked pork and some pork products. In some countries they began slaughtering hundred thousands of pigs even with the objections of the global health experts. They had said that the virus transmission is happening from human to human and the pig has nothing to do with it. Mexico's President Felipe Calderon had urged people to stay home to stop spreading of the virus. World Health Organization had declared that the virus is going from Phase 4 to Phase 5 which means that it has grown into more a severe illness and can cause more harm to people.

On April 2009, President Obama had declared a public health emergency. Many people had been reported to be infected by the virus. Those people had to be quarantined in the hospitals and in their houses to prevent the human to human contacts and spreading of the flu. People are scared to go out of their houses because they think that anyone around them might have had catch the virus and they didn't want to be infected. Scientist had to do a lot of examination to H1N1 to identify how to fight it and come up with a stronger vaccine.

Flu Complications with other diseases

Every year, United States has about 36,000 people who die from influenza and more than 200,000 are hospitalized due to flu complications. Asthma, diabetes, emphysema, heart disease, and HIV are some of the medical diseases that have high risk of problems with the flu. Asthma affects 22 million people all over the world and flu can cause asthma symptoms worse. If a person have diabetes then it's important for them to avoid catching the flu. Having diabetes makes it harder for a person that has it to fight off the viruses that cause flu. Flu can also add stress in a person's body, which can affect their blood sugar level and that can increase their chance of having serious health complications. Influenza can also be dangerous with people who have heart disease. Emphysema is a pulmonary disease which affects 10.7 million adults. It is important to avoid catching flu because it also can worsen the conditions of the disease. Flu virus has higher dangers with people who have heart disease.

The virus prevents people from taking the right amount of oxygen that they needed in order for their organs to function well. As all the people know, heart has the most major work in our body. It needed oxygen-rich blood in order for it to do its job. And that's why flu complication can be so dangerous with heart diseases. HIV damages all the cells in our body systems. It destroys the body's ability to fight infection and viruses. There were 850,000 to 950,000 who are has HIV in the United States. HIV is more likely to get complications from the flu, such as pneumonia; they are also at higher risk of dying from the flu (Gelfand, 2010). It has been reported that 90 percent of people who die from flu are elderly (adults more than 60 years of age. Flu is also dangerous for pregnant women; it can cause serious complications with the unborn babies. It is very important and highly recommended by the physicians to get a flu shot so they could avoid catching the flu or even fight the flu itself.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the following are most likely to have the high risk associated with flu; adults over the age of 50, people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, adults and children 6 months and older who needed regular medical care or were in a hospital during the prior year because of a metabolic disease such as diabetes, have chronic kidney disease, or have a weak immune system, children 6 months to 18 years old who are on long-term aspirin therapy, women who will be pregnant during the influenza season, and all children 6 months to 59 months of age (Gelfand, 2010).


There are some ways to avoid and prevent the flu. Getting flu shot every year or when it's needed can decrease the risk of catching the flu or either developing complications from the virus. People can get a flu shot with their doctors and some public health care centers are offering free flu vaccination. Keep in mind that vaccine's doesn't mean that it will give a person a full protection from the virus; it may reduce the risk of catching the virus and the complications that may cause by the virus. Another ways are to take vitamin C, drinking oranges or lemons or anything with citrus, eating healthy food like fruits and vegetables. Now that flu has known to be pandemic/epidemic around the world, it is very dangerous to catch it because it can cause them to a serious illness or it can also lead to a person's death. There are also some simple steps to avoid catching the flu and that includes the following; washing hands for 15 seconds and turn off the faucet on the public restroom using a paper towel, eat right and sleep tight, exercise regularly and avoid crowds during flu season.