Thursday, September 19, 2013

1700-1900: Influenza wreaks havoc

The beast that we now call influenza went on a brief hiatus during the 18th century, yet that vacation did not last long.  During the 19th century the best woke up and started wreaking havoc once more.  It showed it's devastating symptoms again and again (1, page 33)...

  • 1729-30
  • 1732-1733
  • 1781-1782
From this century on the influenza beast would show up at least three times every decade, causing havoc all across the globe.  Surely few people died, yet the misery it created, and the fear that you could die, disrupted cultures and economies world wide.  Like the beast consumption, the beast influenza was a beast that affected nearly every person in the civilized world.  

The cause of these frequently occurring pandemics was the industrial revolution.  Where most people once lived and worked on isolated farms, occasionally making their ways to cities, the industrial revolution caused many people to move to the cities, and to work in crowded, poorly ventilated areas.  This created a breeding ground for the spread of airborne germs, such as influenza and tuberculosis.  

Once you caught influenza, the germ was expelled every time you exhaled.  Making it worse, it was expelled in large numbers every time you coughed or sneezed.  If you weren't covering your mouth, which most people probably did not, you were coughing and sneezing thousands, if not millions, of tiny germs into the air.  In in close proximity, anyone could inhale those germs, quickly spreading it from one person to another.  

Influenza set up shop in any person it could.  It did not care what your age was, nor your color.  It didn't care what sex you were, nor your economic status.  If you inhaled it, it went to word wreaking havoc inside your body.  It causes your body's immune system to stake out an all out attack, and the result is inflammation of your respiratory tract that results in:
  • Fever
  • Achy muscles
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
The disease affected nearly everyone.  It, along with consumption, forced many men and women to become humble.  These diseases were the will of god, and an ignorant society had no way of knowing what to do to prevent one from getting sick.  You simply had to go on about your business and hope for the best.  

It wreaked havoc again in the 19th century, in (1, page 33)...
  • 1830-31
  • 1833
  • 1889-90
It didn't stop there, as it struck again in 1918-1920.  This is the influenza outbreak that we read about the most often, mainly because it was the most recent outbreak.  Many of our grandparents were affected, so in all likely hood your genetic line was exposed to one strain of the disease or another  

So once our bodies fight off one strain of influenza it vanishes.  A society is humbled after the devastation, and many experts write about what had just happened, using a variety of different names to describe the "plague" or "pandemic" or "epidemic."  They use a variety of different names to describe the symptoms of the beast that ravaged the world.  

Yet as soon as a new strain was introduced, it found it's way into a human body, and began, once again, to wreak havoc.  As you traveled from one area to another, the germ went with you.  

References:
  1. Kelly, Evelyn B., PhD and Claire Wilson, Claire Wilson, "Investigating influenza and Bird Flu: Real facts and real lives," 2011, Enslow Publishers, U.S., Chapter 2, "The History of Influenza," pages 29-47
Further reading:
  1. Hopkirk, Arthur F., "Influenza: It's History, Nature, Cause and Treatment," 1914, New York, Charles Scribner and Sons
  2. Kuszewski, K, L. Brydak, "The epidemiology and history of influenza," Biomed & Pharmacother, 2000; 54: 188-95
  3. herer check this out too

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