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Wednesday, November 30th 2005

1918 & Today

A review of the 1918 influenza virus compared to H5N1.

A team at the CDC recreated the 1918 virus and tested it in mice for pathogenicity. Compared with contemporary human flu viruses, the 1918 virus produced nearly 40,000 times more viral particles in lung tissue. It caused severe bronchiolitis and alveolitis, pulmonary edema, and alveolar hemorrhage — just as it had in human lungs in 1918

The 1918 virus contains several amino acid changes that also are present in the current highly pathogenic H5N1 avian virus that has killed humans in the past 8 years.

I’d like to see the models of what an easily transmittable H5N1 would do in the industrialized world. I’m certainly completely off the track here, but how bad would the 1918 epidemic be with today’s public health knowledge and treatment options?

Of course there’s a great deal more of the world to be concerned about other than America and Western Europe.