Gina Kolata. · Rating details · 5, ratings · reviews. In the Great Flu Epidemic killed an estimated 40 million people virtually overnight. If such a. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of and the Search for the Virus That Caused It By Gina Kolata. New York: Farrar, Straus. It is sometimes called the “Spanish” flu, probably because neutral Spain did not censor The epidemic per se is not the main subject of Gina Kolata’s interesting .

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Influenza virus continues to both frighten and fascinate us with its capacity for change. Never was this more true than in the deadly pandemic of whenpeople died in the United States and 20 million people died worldwide. Inthe United States developed a vaccine against a viral descendant of the virus that caused an outbreak which, fortunately, burned itself out at Fort Dix.

The avian influenza outbreak in in Hong Kong reminded us that we are continually at risk for another pandemic, although in that instance the expert response of public health officials extinguished a potentially lethal situation.

Gina Kolata describes an exciting tale of competition, disappointment, and ingenuity in finding the specimens that have been key to decoding the genetic makeup of the virus. She also describes the backdrop to the epidemic and its rapid move through the population.

FLU by Gina Kolata | Kirkus Reviews

Her account is necessarily brief; for a fully developed chronicle of the epidemic, one is advised to read America’s Forgotten Pandemic by the historian Alfred Crosby. One of the most riveting chapters in Kolata’s book is the account of the young Swedish medical student, Johan Hultin, pursuing a virology project for his master’s degree at the University of Iowa.

His proposal in to retrieve specimens from pandemic victims buried in the permafrost is fascinating and a touch horrifying. A military medical expedition appropriated his proposal and undertook the search—at a cost 30 times what Hultin had requested.


Hultin managed to outflank kolafa and successfully retrieved specimens. However, he had no success in replicating the virus, which was indeed fortunate considering the limited precautions for containment taken at that time. Hultin went on to have a successful career as a pathologist but never stopped kolatta about the virus. gjna

Forty-six years later, inwhen Jeffrey Taubenberger’s laboratory reported part of the genetic sequence of the virus, Hultin, ever the adventurer, retrieved new specimens at the one site that he knew would yield intact tissue. While Hultin quietly collected his specimens in Alaska, a high profile team organized by a young, energetic Canadian geographer, Kirsty Duncan, selected Spitsbergen, Norway, for specimen collection. This was a burial site for Norwegian miners who died of influenza in Intense planning went into this expedition with equally intense media attention.

Unfortunately, the bodies were buried above the permanently frozen layer of the permafrost and were in an advanced state of decomposition. Kolata also fully explores the events and decision-making surrounding the swine influenza program.

The swine influenza hina, a descendant of the virus, did infect soldiers at Fort Dix, which represents considerable person-to-person transmission. But the outbreak was confined there, and of course, when no virus appeared in the general population, it was easy for critics of aggressive vaccination efforts to argue that they were unnecessary.

The controversy over the vaccine continued in that fateful bicentennial year of The appearance of Legionnaires’ disease in Philadelphia pushed the US Congress to overcome their hesitancy to assume financial liability for adverse effects of the vaccine. What a year for infectious diseases! In Ebola virus also reared its ugly head in Africa. Of course, there was no relationship between Legionnaires’ disease, caused by a bacterium unknown at the time, and swine influenza.

In in Hong Kong, avian influenza ,olata transmitted to humans; 18 were hospitalized and 8 died. Everyone held their breath as the epidemiologists worked intensely. All cases could be traced to direct exposure to live poultry. The fflu of all live poultry and fowl 1.

Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It

So what do we do if another pandemic arises? An effective vaccine against a novel influenza virus would take months to prepare and test.

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The vaccine would also need to be made in sufficient amounts to protect the entire world’s population. Will the new anti-influenza agents provide sufficient protection against an extremely lethal virus? And equally important, can they be made at fllu affordable cost for people in developing countries?

Aside from the considerations of vaccines and antivirals, the most important protection from a devastating pandemic is vigilant surveillance. The appearance of a novel influenza virus in the human population requires rapid response. The Hong Kong outbreak was a model for training for such an occurrence.

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