influenza ward, US Naval Hospital, Mare Island, California, December 1918
Despite countless breakthroughs in medicine since the 1918 flu pandemic, one key advance continues to elude researchers.
Without a universal vaccine to combat ever-changing flu strains, another pandemic threatens to overwhelm the U.S. health care system, warns Tom Inglesby, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health…
A 2006 study at the Center for Health Security examined the potential impact of a 1918-type pandemic a century later, based on updated U.S. population figures and the current health care system.
“At the peak of the pandemic in the U.S., we’d have seven times more people in need of ventilation than we have ventilators, and seven times the number of people needing intensive care than we have intensive care beds,” Inglesby said.
The relatively mild pandemics of 1957, 1968 and 2009 killed between 12,000 and 70,000 in the U.S. The severe 1918 pandemic killed up to an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S. Deaths a century ago were primarily attributed to lack of a flu vaccine, lack of antibiotics to treat superimposed bacterial pneumonia, and the absence of basic medical supplies that we take for granted now, like oxygen, IV fluids and mechanical ventilation.
Since then, improvements include effective treatments for pneumonia and emergence of vaccines that can generally be developed for a new flu strain within six months. Studies show that vaccines reduce flu risk from 40 to 60 percent—and scientists constantly seek to make them faster and more effective.
RTFA. It might also be useful to have a Congress with elected officials who care more about healthcare than squeezing out another few buck$ in tax breaks for our biggest corporations, wealthiest denizens of Wall Street.
Of course, that would require more than the 2-Party dead end we get lost in every couple of years.