The site of origin of the 1918 influenza pandemic and its public health implications | Journal of Translational Medicine

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The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history. The lowest estimate of the death toll is 21 million, while recent scholarship estimates from 50 to 100 million dead. World population was then only 28% what it is today, and most deaths occurred in a sixteen week period, from late September 1918 to early January 1919. The site of origin has never been clearly established. A new review of contemporary medical and lay literature has found previously-overlooked epidemiological evidence that suggests that the pandemic began in a sparsely populated region of southwestern Kansas. The fact that a new influenza virus could cross from animals to man in such a region demonstrates the need for WHO to get the political and diplomatic support and the resources necessary to expand its influenza surveillance system, currently limited to only about half the countries in the world.

Australian Nobel laureate MacFarlane Burnet spent most of his scientific career working on influenza and studied the pandemic closely. He too concluded that the evidence was "strongly suggestive" that the disease started in the United States and spread with "the arrival of American troops in France [6]."

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Cite : The site of origin of the 1918 influenza pandemic and its public health implications | Journal of Translational Medicine ( by John M Barry licensed as (BioMed Central Open Access license agreement)

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About Kate Lindsay

Kate Lindsay, University of Oxford is the Director of World War One Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings. She is also the Manager for Education Enhancement at Academic IT where she also led the First World War Poetry Digital Archive and public engagement initiative Great War Archive. She has eight years experience of in-depth work on World War I digital archives and educational curricula. Kate has a degree in English Literature from the University of Leeds, combined with an MSc in Information Systems from the University for Sheffield, and an MSc in Educational Research from the University of Oxford. She is particularly interested in womens' experience of War and the representation of the First World War in popular culture.
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