In 1918, during the First World War, an influenza virus known as H1N1 spread across the globe leaving devastation in its wake. By 1919 the pandemic had claimed more lives than the battlefields; over five-hundred thousand people lost their lives in the United States alone. A brief biological examination reveals mechanisms of the influenza virus that allow it to remain eradicable. Each year, thirty-six thousand Americans lose their lives to influenza despite the efforts of modern medicine. This presentation examines pandemic influenza in the United States, emphasizing the 1918 pandemic. Comparison drawn between the 1918 virus and the threatening H5N1 avian influenza strain confirms the eventuality of a pandemic. Understanding how the human body fights infection validates the role of vaccination and anti-viral drugs in preventing an influenza pandemic. Through examination of 1918 conditions the nation gains valuable insight into how to prepare for the coming threat. Critical examination of local incident response plans and the Federal Pandemic Preparedness Plan reveal challenges to sufficient preparation. Exploration and analysis of Linn County preparedness efforts reveals the critical role of the citizen in pandemic preparedness.
Saydra Wilson, ’08 Florissant, MO
Sponsor: Barbara Christie-Pope