One Hundred Years of the Flu

100 years ago one of the deadliest natural disasters hit humanity, killing approximately 4 percent of the earth's population. Even people in remote Pacific Islands and the Arctic met their demise due to this virus. This shocking number of deaths was caused by the flu, although these days most healthy people take the flu lightly.

That particular strain, the H1N1 influenza virus, commonly known as the Spanish Flu, claimed many young as well as many previously healthy adults. Additionally, since it arrived on the heels of the Great War, many people were malnourished, living in overcrowded medical camps with little access to good hygiene.

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Government censorship may have played a role in the pandemic. To appear strong, many governments didn't reveal how devastating the flu was, giving no warning to the public to protect themselves. In Spain this information was not censored, giving the world the false impression that the Spanish were harder hit than the rest of the world. Thus the common moniker of the H1N1 strain in 1918 was the Spanish Flu.

These days you can walk into the corner drug store and within a few minutes walk out inoculated against the flu. Each year scientists update the formula to keep up with the ever-mutating virus strains.

In addition to the vaccine, we now know to take more steps to minimize infection. These precautions include washing our hands frequently, not touching our faces, standing at least six feet from anyone with the flu, nor touching an infected person’s phone, keyboard or other personal items. In a more general sense, we know to keep our immune systems healthy by getting enough sleep, eating right and regulating stress factors.

How can you tell if someone has the flu, not just a bad cold? Ultimately, without a medical test it is impossible to tell precisely, but here are a few guidelines.

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Common cold:

  • comes on gradually

  • rarely have a fever

  • mild aches

  • sore throat and runny nose are common

The Flu:

  • sudden onset

  • high fever with chills

  • body aches

  • fatigue

  • headaches

  • sore throat and runny nose are rare

Most people recover from the flu on their own and suffer no complications. But one of the main reasons to avoid contracting it is to avoid passing it on to family and friends who are elderly, very young or otherwise susceptible to disease.

Late autumn is the perfect time to get your flu shot. It only takes a few seconds and you'll be covered until the next flu season.



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