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There's a state park near here where my family joined a friend's family once for a day of fishing, hiking & a picnic. Since my friend and I both had toddlers, we let the guys fish while we walked. We wandered through a small cemetary on the premises, and we surprised to find mostly graves of those who died in 1918 and early 1919.


I remember noticing so many very young children's graves, probably because I was a new Mom and my son was my world. Later I learned about the terrible flu outbreak of 1918 - 1919:


"The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster."

( http://www.stanford.edu/group/virus/uda/ )


This flu was particularly frightening because it did not act as others before and after it; instead of attacking mostly the very young and the very old, it attacked the usually healthy and strong 20-40 age groups.


Some believe it is related to "Swine Flu", others believe it's more like the Bird Flu or "Chicken Ebola" recently causing slaughter of poultry in Asia.


Scientists are actively studying this because some feel that a return of this deadly flu is inevitable. To do that, they're digging up victims and *reactivating* the virus to be studied.


This link is from Saturday, Sept 18, 2004:





This site tells symptoms and speed of the deadly flu, plus a fictional book (Ninth Day of Creation) about someone resurrecting this flu:



List of Google links (searched by *1918 flu epidemic*):



Be aware. frown




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You know, a few years ago I took a walk through the cemetary in the small town where my mom lives, and noticed the same thing. I had assumed there was a fire or something, but never really thought about looking it up.


Thank you for providing this information. I know we're all careful, but man, that's frightening!

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Unfortunately the authorities are not the only ones digging up graves these days. This has always been a potential for someone to dig up these grave sites and hit us hard with this flu. At least now we may have some vaccine or defense against it. Thanks for sharing this.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Update on the story above:




Killer flu recreated in the lab


Scientists have shown that tiny changes to modern flu viruses could render them as deadly as the 1918 strain which killed millions.

A US team added two genes from a sample of the 1918 virus to a modern strain known to have no effect on mice.


Animals exposed to this composite were dying within days of symptoms similar to those found in human victims of the 1918 pandemic.


The research is published in the journal Nature.


The work of the US team, lead by Dr Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, was carried out under the tightest security.


Experts focused on two genes thought to play a key role in the infection process.


One controls production of a spike-like molecule called haemagglutinin (HA), believed to be used by the flu virus to attach itself to the cells it is about to infect.


Previous research, published earlier this year in the journal Science, identified the HA gene as being the crucial element which made the 1918 virus so deadly - and the latest work appears to confirm this.


Post mortems on mice injected in the nose with the composite virus showed that it had rampaged through their lungs, producing inflammation and haemorrhaging.


The researchers stress the experiment is conclusive for lab mice, and not humans.


Better monitoring


But they say that their work may lead to better ways to assess the potential danger of emerging flu viruses.


Writing in Nature, the researchers say: "Once the properties of the (1918) HA gene that gave rise to its lethal infectivity are better understood, it should be possible to devise effective control measures and to improve global surveillance networks for influenza viruses that pose the greatest threat to humans as well as other animal species."


Scientists believe the 1918 virus leapt to humans by mutating from bird flu, possibly after passing through pigs, which are able to harbour both human and avian viruses and thus allow them to swap genes as the viruses reproduce.


For that reason, experts are deeply concerned that the avian flu that has broken out in poultry flocks in parts of south-east Asia may acquire genes that will make it highly infectious as well as lethal for humans.


Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at Queen Mary College London, told BBC News Online the latest research underlined just what a threat all flu viruses potentially posed.


He said: "It is not a big difference at all between a virus that kills 15m people and one that does not kill anyone at all.


"The lesson is not to be complacent about anything to do with flu. Every flu virus must be carrying baggage that could potentially harm us, and we would be well advised not to ignore them."


Many deaths


The 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic is estimated to have infected up to one billion people - half the world's population at the time.


The virus killed more people than any other single outbreak of disease, surpassing even the Black Death of the Middle Ages.


Although it probably originated in the Far East, it was dubbed "Spanish" flu because the press in Spain - not being involved in World War I - were the first to report extensively on its impact.


The virus caused three waves of disease. The second of these, between September and December 1918, resulting in the heaviest loss of life.


It is thought that the virus may have played a role in ending World War I as soldiers were too sick to fight, and by that stage more men on both sides died of flu than were killed by weapons.


Although most people who were infected with the virus recovered within a week following bed rest, some died within 24 hours of infection.






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Scientists Find Deadly Component of 1918 Flu Virus

By Patricia Reaney


LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists who synthesized two genes from the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic said on Thursday they have a found new clues about what made it so deadly.




Between 20 million and 50 million people worldwide died in the 1918-1919 pandemic, the deadliest in the past century. By unraveling the secrets of the virus, researchers hope to improve methods to spot the next potential flu pandemic which some scientists believe is overdue.



"We found that just one gene called HA, hemagglutinin, is sufficient to make a benign virus pathogenic," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tokyo.



Scientists suspect the 1918 virus originated in birds and leapt to humans. The spread of bird flu in Asia has raised fears that the strain could mutate and become highly infectious in humans.



"At this point we don't know why Spanish virus HA makes a benign virus highly pathogenic but by studying this HA we will know," Kawaoka, who headed the research team, told Reuters.



"We can use that information to predict, when a new virus appears, whether it is pathogenic and can cause a devastating outbreak or not."



In research reported in the latest edition of the science journal Nature, Kawaoka and his colleagues used genetic material of the 1918 virus taken from the lung of a person who died from the illness.



They synthesized HA and another gene from the 1918 virus, inserted them into benign viruses and tested the engineered viruses on mice. The mice quickly became ill and suffered symptoms similar to those of patients who died in the pandemic.



"One of the hallmarks of the 1918 Spanish flu is hemorrhage in the lungs. That is what we found in the lungs of the mice," he said.



Although other genes may be involved, the researchers believe HA is important.



"Limited genes can make a benign virus pathogenic and the influenza virus is known to change easily, so we need to watch these viruses in nature," Kawaoka added.



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