Friday, November 14, 2008

Doomed By Disease: Pandemics Throughout History

From Ignoring Friction

Will history repeat itself?

A flu pandemic occurs when a virus develops for which humans have little or no immunity. Since the human immune system is not prepared for the new virus, and a vaccine is not yet invented, the disease travels quickly amoung people. In this way, pandemics spread throughout the world and are often fatal for millions.

The Asian influenza virus H5N1 is currently spreading across eastern Asia and is a major threat to human health. Infections have been reported since 2003 in Asia, Europe and Africa. These cases occurred in instances when the virus transferred to humans from poultry. The virus is already very contagious among birds and scientists fear that the disease will mutate allowing it to spread rapidly through human populations. If the H5N1 virus mutates so that it can be passed between humans, we may be in for another pandemic.

From Ignoring Friction

Locations of the spread of the H5N1 virus since 2003. Scientists fear it could transfer to human populations worldwide.


A History of Cholera. FSM College of Micronesia.

Billings, Molly. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918. 2005.

Murphy, Verity. Past Pandemics that Ravaged Europe. BBC News. 2005.

Native American of North America. MSN Encarta. 2008. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008.

The Black Death, 1348. EyeWitness to History. 2001.

The History of Pandemics. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 2008. . (photo). (photo). (photo). (photo).

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Sharon-S said...

Mo' text, less links!

Angel Travers said...

Yes, the H5N1 virus is most certainly something to be concerned about. It would only take two very specific mutations for it to become human-to-human transmitable.

Prof G said...

What are the chances of these two very specific mutations happening? Is there any knowledge about the virulence of H5N1 compared to other strains of influenza. It seems that many of the cases reported in the media end with death, but are there a large number of nonleathal cases that are mistaken for "normal" flu and consequently not reported?