WBEZ | influenza http://www.wbez.org/tags/influenza Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en In 1918, killer flu hits Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 <p><p>A killer was stalking Chicago in the fall of 1918, a killer called the Spanish flu. The city had never seen anything like it. On this October 17th&nbsp;&mdash; on this one day alone &mdash; 381 Chicagoans died.</p><p>Nine decades later, scientists still argue over the origins of the disease. We do know that the worldwide 1918 flu was the deadliest pandemic since the Black Death. Over 40 million people died &mdash; four times the number killed in World War I. In the United States, flu fatalities were 600,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-18--US%20Dept%20of%20Public%20Health.jpg" title="Makeshift hospital ward during the 1918 epidemic (Office of the U.S. Public Health Service)" /></div><p>Unlike the usual pattern, most of the victims were not the very young or the very old. Healthy people in the prime of life were dying, and dying quickly &mdash; often within hours of showing symptoms. In Chicago, health commissioner John Dill Robertson decided on drastic actions.</p><p>The disease spread through close human contact. Therefore, all large gatherings were banned&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;athletic contests, labor and political meetings, banquets and so on. Schools shut down, and children playing in the parks were told to go home. Theaters and cabarets closed. Weddings were postponed, and even funerals were suspended.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-17--Flu poster.jpg" style="width: 221px; height: 335px; float: right;" title="Chicago Public Health Poster (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Because they were considered essential for morale, churches remained open. However, Robertson requested that pastors shorten their services. Even so, attendance at religious events was down about one-third.</p><p>Most people had to continue working, so officials asked businesses to stagger their hours. Robertson suggested that commuters walk whenever possible, to avoid overcrowding on public transportation. Laws were passed to ban public spitting and to outlaw smoking on &quot;L&quot; trains. Citizens were asked to wear gauze face masks when they appeared in public.</p><p>By October 21, Chicago had received 100,000 doses of flu vaccine, and inoculations began. Whether this helped is debatable. But over the next weeks, flu deaths rapidly dropped. The war ended on November 11, and the Spanish flu was forgotten in the excitement.</p><p>About 8,500 Chicagoans had died. Former mayor John Hopkins and pioneer educator Ella Flagg Young were the most prominent victims. And there were all the others, known only to their family and friends.</p><p>Those left behind dealt with their grief. One of these was a 29-year-old Bucktown bricklayer named Florian Przedziankowski. In October 1918 he lost both his wife and his mother to the deadly flu.</p><p>But Florian moved on, as he had to. In 1920 he remarried, and a year later, he had a daughter. And that daughter became my mother.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 Clever Apes: What the flu? http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-02-29/clever-apes-what-flu-96851 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-29/Flu.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Image of the 2009 H1N1 influenza. (C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, CDC)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-29/Flu.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 492px;" title="Image of the 2009 H1N1 influenza. (C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, CDC)"></p><p>Just the other day, I was feeling lucky because I haven't gotten a cold or flu this winter. Maybe all that hand washing and hand sanitizing was paying off. &nbsp;Maybe, maybe not? It turns out that this year's flu season is just off to a late start. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recently <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/media/haveyouheard/stories/flu_activity_increasing.html">reported</a>&nbsp;that this year's flu season is one of the latest in the past 30 years.</p><p>Even though the flu hasn't been making big headlines this year, there is still good reason to remain vigilant in fighting the disease. The influenza virus can <a href="http://www.wbez.org/gspitzer/2009/04/spitzer-splainer-this-flu-virus-likes-to-bump-and-rub/3238">mutate</a> rather easily, and just recently <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=new-h3n2-flu-strain-from-swine">a new strain</a> of the H3N2 swine flu was found in a small outbreak in Iowa. The constant mutation of viruses keeps researchers guessing as to which strain is best to use when developing a vaccine. Some scientists are hopeful that a <a href="http://www.labspaces.net/117923/_Universal__vaccines_could_finally_allow_for_wide_scale_flu_prevention">universal vaccine</a> might be possible based on traits that almost all flu viruses share. &nbsp;</p><p>Clever Apes host Gabriel Spitzer recently sat down with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez">The Afternoon Shift</a> host Steve Edwards to discuss all things flu. &nbsp;You can hear their conversation by clicking "Listen to this story" above or by subscribing to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174">podcast</a>.</p></p> Wed, 29 Feb 2012 22:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-02-29/clever-apes-what-flu-96851 Scientists take big step toward a universal flu vaccine http://www.wbez.org/story/flu/scientists-take-big-step-toward-universal-flu-vaccine <p><p>&nbsp;Researchers say they&rsquo;ve taken a major step toward developing a flu vaccine that works for multiple strains of the virus, thanks to a quirk of last year&rsquo;s pandemic swine flu.</p><p>Most years, the seasonal flu virus morphs just a little, so vaccine makers have to guess what the strain will look like many months in advance. But last year&rsquo;s novel H1N1 strain may change the game. Some of the antibodies that flu generates seem to be effective across many strains, and that could be the key to a universal vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;What the flu vaccine community would want would be antibodies that would provide immunity to all flus,&rdquo; said Patrick Wilson, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. &ldquo;Who knows? Maybe we have crossed the line &ndash; we&rsquo;re getting closer.&rdquo;</p><p>Wilson said some of the H1N1 antibodies target structures on the virus that hardly change from year to year. That means the flu bug couldn&rsquo;t outsmart the shot by mutating, though he cautioned against underestimating the crafty virus. The results are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.</p></p> Mon, 10 Jan 2011 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/flu/scientists-take-big-step-toward-universal-flu-vaccine