Deadly 1918 Flu = Weaker H1N1 in 2009

I don’t normally post on weekends, but I’m squeezing this quickie in because I promised:

Yesterday, Scientific American’s Twitter account mentioned an online article about the 1918 influenza and its weakening effect on modern pandemics.

Today, here it is: Pandemic Payoff

You should read the whole article if you want some reassurance about swine flu. First of all, you’ll learn about recent vaccine research that shows previous brushes with the flu – any flu – appear to help immune systems over age six recognize H1N1.

But the best part comes on page two, with a description of the H1N1 we’re dealing with today as sort of a weaker descendant (though still not a strain to take lightly) of that deadly 1918 strain. You see, H1N1 virus had never cropped up in humans before 1918, so exposure during that pandemic is, in a way, gruesome good news for our 21st century selves. Meaning, in my mind at least, that other future variant strains should have the same less-than-devastating qualities.

Now, avian flu (H5N1) is another story altogether, but let’s just choose not to worry about that scenario for the time being, shall we?

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. As I write this, my former Florida kids are playing in the snow.


I love it.

10 responses to “Deadly 1918 Flu = Weaker H1N1 in 2009”

  1. Her Grace says:

    My sister-in-law, who lives three hours north of us, just Facebooked that it’s snowing there. So early! But the kids are going to love it.

    Thanks for posting this, I can’t wait to go take a read.

  2. Marie says:

    It’s not very comforting to me to know that previous flu exposure helps the immune system fight H1N1. I don’t think my son with asthma has ever had the flu. It seems he’s had just about every variety of respiratory illness out there, including lab-confirmed whooping cough which came seemingly out of nowhere (and he was vaccinated.) But no illness with classic flu symptoms.

    He was diagnosed with asthma when he was about a year old and I think he has had a flu vaccine every year after that. Is it possible that young people with asthma are hit so hard by this because this is the first time many of them have been exposed to a flu virus without benefit of a vaccine to help protect them?

  3. Daniel Martindale says:

    Would you take a vaccine if the company that made it has been cleared of all guilt if anything goes wrong. What if that company’s owners refused to take that vaccine. What if there is speculation that the vaccine could have sterilizing squalene like adjuvants in it. What if a 2000 Intl. units daily dose of Vitamin D3 could keep you from getting swine flu … any flu.

  4. Her Grace says:


    I wondered something similar. At first I took great comfort in that article — my girls have been vaccinated every year since they were born, and I’ve got the shot for the last 11 years. I’ve only had the “natural” flu once, as has one of my daughters. But then I started to worry that maybe it’s natural exposure that provide immunity.

    But then, toward the end of the article, it talks about people who had the swine flu vaccine in 1976 and how they are showing immunity … without natural infection. And that most people (over 10) responded to the current swine flu vaccine with just one shot — suggesting prior immunity.

    Add that in with the recent study from Mexico and maybe those prior seasonal vaccines will help in a way. I think the scariest thing for most of us is that no one can predict and that makes us anxious.

  5. Marie says:

    Daniel – what if you stop repeating
    internet rumors.

    “Would you take a vaccine if the company that made it has been cleared of all guilt if anything goes wrong.”

    In 1988, the government set up the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate individuals and families of individuals injured by covered childhood vaccines. Vaccine injury claims are handled through this system instead of through direct lawsuits against the manufacturers. Most common vaccines are covered by this program. In 2005, trivalent influenza vaccines were added to the list. The government is not giving unprecedented protection to the manufactures of H1N1 because it is so dangerous, as this rumor implies.

    “What if that company’s owners refused to take that vaccine.” This allegation is based on the YouTube video being passed around the internet. In this video, “investigative journalist” Wayne Madsen claims in an interview on RT (Russian TV) that the manufacturers of H1N1 won’t take the vaccine because it’s not safe. He offers no evidence to back up this claim. This man has a long history of making wild accusations. Among other things, he claims the World Trade Center attack was planned by the Bush family and Saudi Royals.

    “What if there is speculation that the vaccine could have sterilizing squalene like adjuvants in it”

    There is a lot of speculation about the H1N1 vaccine, including speculation that it contains a microchip that will allow the government to control the minds of the people getting it (my personal favorite). H1N1 does not contain squalene. A vaccine adjuvant containing squalene is licensed in Europe, but not in the U.S.

    ” What if a 2000 Intl. units daily dose of Vitamin D3 could keep you from getting swine flu … any flu.”

    We would all love to believe that simply taking Vitamin D will protect ourselves and our families against H1N1. There is scientific evidence that Vitamin D helps improve immune system reaction to respiratory infections. However, I wouldn’t recommend anyone rely on Vitamin D as their sole means of protection against a virus that is capable of rapidly killing health young people. Information about Vitamin D and H1N1 can be found here:

    Many people are struggling with the H1N1 vaccination issue. These people need solid information, not rumors, half-truths and outright lies being spread by people who have a clear anti-vaccine bias. Daniel, you are helping no one.

  6. Amy says:

    Thanks, Marie. You’ve included so much good information, I have nothing more to add.

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