By: Lamar Greene
Currently, concern for the flu has grown so much that we are beginning to see organizations such as “Flu Near You” that is use social media and smart phone use to produce new information to help researchers track the outbreak. The website and social media platforms allow people to post their flu-like symptoms and location so that researchers can see the geographical areas in which the disease may spread next. What exactly are flu symptoms and how are they different from those of the common cold? People who have the flu often experience a mix of symptoms that can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.
Interestingly, this year’s flu outbreak marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Spanish pandemic of 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic was the deadliest flu outbreak in human history. It is estimated that 500 million people worldwide were infected with the flu, which was one-third of the global population at the time. The flu killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people across the globe, roughly 675,000 of the deaths were Americans. The death toll of the current ongoing flu outbreak is the highest we have seen in a long time, which brings up the question of whether we have learned from our mistakes. Is the fact this this rough flu season is the one hundredth anniversary of the Spanish flu pure coincidence?
This year’s seasonal flu is heavy on H3N2, which includes a variety of influenza. H3N2 is known among public health officials as the problem child of seasonal flu because it causes more deaths than any other influenza A virus. The flu outbreak has been exacerbated for the United States because many hospitals are having shortages of materials needed to treat flu victims. Specifically, there is a shortage of saline IV bags to treat the large amount of people who are being hospitalized. The shortage stems from the fact that the flu follows the incredible damage Hurricane Maria has done to Puerto Rico, where nearly half of America’s saline IV bags are needed. The island has not even been able to help connect all the people affected by the hurricane to basic needs let alone repair infrastructure to manufacture medical supplies.