Flu : The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic Of 1918 And The Search For The Virus That Caused It / Gina Kolata

In the spring of 1918 there was an outbreak of the flu across the globe. There was little to differentiate it from past flu seasons—some people died, but most who were infected recovered. But that autumn, first noticed in Spain, the virus mutated and returned, this time proving to be a gruesome killer. The epidemic seemed to target the young and healthy, and there was little the medical community could do to save anyone who came down with the disease. By the time the Great Flu Epidemic (called the Spanish Flu at the time) came to end, an estimated forty million people had died. More American soldiers were killed by the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during World War One. The outbreak was truly global; even Eskimos living in the arctic were infected and entire communities wiped out. While a devastating epidemic, afterwards, few people seemed willing to discuss what had occurred, or more importantly, to try to investigate what had caused this particular strain to be so virulent. In this gripping book, Kolata tells the story of the 1918 outbreak, and then tracks the search by scientists, decades later, to identify the virus and explain how it got its start, what made it such a killer, and the attempt to develop a vaccine should it return. From Alaska to Norway, from Hong Kong to the inner sanctum of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Kolata delves into the history of this particular strain of the flu virus. Her presentation reads like a first-class detective story. Science writing can often be a chore to read, but this is storytelling at its best.

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