Fuck the flu

So on Monday I was wandering about in the house making a cup of tea and pottering about, and I got a funny shiver... and I thought that's a bit odd, I hope I'm not coming down with something...

12 hours later, I am curled up in bed, pouring with sweat, shivering cold and running a massive fever. The invaders were not just at the gate, no, the castle walls were down and the keep was being ransacked. ;-) Headache, bone-ache, cough, sore-throat, delirium. etc. etc


One thing it has made me realise is that I have never had the flu before, no really I have never felt anything like that before and if I had, I would have bloody well remembered it.

Anyway, so booked off work until Monday and its not like I'm going to be doing any drinking this week-end so I decided to look into this flu business on wikipedia and it's pretty interesting if you like that sort of thing.


Types of Flu

So there are 3 types of flu - A, B and C.

Influenza virus A is the main source of severe disease in humans, and the species that produced the most serious outbreaks resulting in the Spanish flu of 1918, the Asian flu of 1957 and the Hong Kong Flu of 1968.

Type B and C are much less serious and rarely result in outbreaks. Influenza A is particularly virulent due to its high mutation rate.

The mutations in the antigens on the surface which create new viruses is known as antigenic drift.

The serotype H1N1 that caused Swine Flu in 2009 is the same one as was responsible for the Spanish Flu of 1918, so it makes sense now why there was such a panic.


The Spanish Flu Pandemic - 1918

Everyone would have read or heard about the pandemic known as the 1918 Spanish flu, and probably about the statistics involved.

It seems that the naming of the pandemic was rather unfair on Spain given that the first cases of the disease were registered in the US and Europe before arriving in Spain.

The naming was a result of that as Spain was neutral during World War 1, there was no media blackout, however for Germany, the UK, France and the US they didn't want to reveal their weakness so news was suppressed and it was incorrectly perceived as a result that Spain was the source and main focus of the disease.

The spanish flu of 1918 killed between 20 and 100 million people, which interestingly enough was the same subtype as the H1N1 one that is a problem at the moment. (it killed more than 2% of the worlds total population at that time mostly within the first 25 weeks...)

A striking complication of the severity of the spanish flu was hemorrhage from mucus membranes, from the mouth, nose, stomach, ears and intestine. And even worse... bleeding from the skin... this caused secondary infections which caused the majority of deaths.



Some interesting facts... (cropped from wikipedia article on flu)

influenza kills between 250 and 500 thousand people per year on average, with pandemic years killing many more.

It is believed that during the early colonisation of the americas, the entire indigenous population of the Antilles was killed by an influenza epidemic after the arrival of christopher columbus


Part of the reason of the reason of the reduction in mortality associated with severe flu in modern times is the availability of antibiotics to treat the secondary bacterial infections that invade through the hemorrhage sites.

The symptoms of flu were first described by Hippocrates 2400 years ago.

Other historic terms for flu are
catarrh
the grippe
sweating sickness
spanish fever