Saturday, April 25, 2009

1918: Quite a Year

I’ve gotten another cold or, if it’s not a cold, its spring allergies wreaking havoc with my body. I’ve been ill since Thursday, so I’ve had to step off my exercise regiment while still attempting to blearily fight on towards the end of a research project in the library. Being in this state has, of course, made me a bit more inclined to read the headlines about the ‘swine-flu’ rearing its ugly head State-side and Mexico-side. It’s amazing how skilled the various ‘news’ outlets are at revving up the fear machine. One of the articles said the new ‘swine-flu’ had the potential to escalate into a Spanish Influenza-style pandemic.

I’d learned about the Pandemic of 1918, but, like half the female population in America, I am most familiar with the Spanish Flu because it is what almost killed the dreamy (but also disturbing) Edward Cullen in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Just about to succumb to the virus, he was instead turned into a vampire so that 90 years later he could melt the hearts of screaming teenage girls everywhere.

Thinking on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, I decided to use the internet for what’s most handy about it – learning stuff. The 1918 flu killed twice as many people as the Great War. It turns out that just over half of the Americans who died in said Great War didn’t perish in the trenches, but were killed by the influenza. It seems to have also turned people a bluish color; most died by drowning in their own lungs, and most who died were at the height of their youth and health. The Spanish Flu actually set people’s immune systems on overdrive – they were killed by their own efforts to fight the virus. The pandemic of 1918 blew the Bubonic Plaque out of the deadly-virus-water.

It also turns out that scientists, in order to learn more about the mystery pandemic, recently dug up a flu victim frozen in the Alaska permafrost and used some ‘preserved tissue samples of WWI soldiers.’ Yuck. Most pleasant of all, they brought it back to life and infected mice and monkeys. The mice were dead in three days and on the third day, the scientists had to start euthanizing the monkeys.

Funny that I never learned about this in school.

If you really want to get freaked out, watch the awesome documentary from PBS here.

Hopefully my own mini-flu will be gone in a day or so, since tomorrow I head off to ancient Corinth to join the excavations. Good health is also essential so that I might venture out on a new exciting venture, the Great Kopanos Hill Quest of 2009, in search of Isadora Duncan’s dream house. Come Saturday next, the scavenger hunt begins.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just an aunt's word of unnecessary warning...don't get into any open cars with a long long scarf around your neck.

You probably aren't into finding connections, but..if it were not for the "sudden" end of wwI, your great grand dad would probably have caught the 1918 flu in boot camp and died. U and I would not be here..guess we caught a break there. Granddad was on the train on the way to boot camp when the war ended. It's a stretch, but I have always liked it. sr