Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Weird Disease Of The Week - Pandemic Flu

In 1918 The "Spanish Flu" killed an estimated 40 million people worldwide. Almost 700,000 Americans were killed including 43,000 soldiers. There has been some speculation that this pandemic originated in American swine:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The 1918 influenza virus that killed more than 20 million people worldwide originated from American pigs and is unlike any other known flu bug, say researchers. They warn that it could strike again.
Using lung tissue taken at autopsy 79 years ago from an Army private killed by the flu, scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology made a genetic analysis of the virus and concluded it is unique, though closely related to the ''swine'' flu.
''This is the first time that anyone has gotten a look at this virus which killed millions of people in one year, making it the worst infectious disease episode ever,'' said Dr. Jeffery K. Taubenberger, leader of the Armed Forces Institute team. ''It does not match any virus that has been found since.''
Although the disease that caused the worldwide epidemic was called ''Spanish flu,'' the virus apparently is a mutation that evolved in American pigs and was spread around the globe by U.S. troops mobilized for World War I, said Taubenberger.
The Army private whose tissue was analyzed contracted the flu at Fort Jackson, S.C. For that reason, Taubenberger and his colleagues suggest in the journal Science that the virus be known as Influenza A/South Carolina.

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