Full text of virologist Dr Kirsty Short’s talk: How Did The 1918 Flu Pandemic Start And Could We Have Another One?
Dr Kirsty Short – Virologist, University of Queensland
So, this year is 2018, and it is a pretty significant year because it marks the anniversary of many important events in our history.
So, it has actually been 20 years since the release of possibly the greatest musical hit of all time, The Backstreet Boys: The Backstreet is Back. Okay, personal preference in music.
But it is also an anniversary of much more significant world events, things like it has been 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther king. It has been 100 years this year since the end of World War I and it has been a hundred years since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
So, this 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the mortality estimates vary but it is largely accepted that it killed 50 million people worldwide. This virus killed more people in 24 weeks than HIV killed in 24 years.
Okay, this has been described as the greatest medical holocaust in history and I think it is really hard for us in this day and age to appreciate how severe this was.
But I want you to imagine that the death toll was so severe that in some countries, they actually ran out of coffins.
So, what was it about this 1918 virus that made it so bad?
I mean, every year we have outbreaks of flu, and 2017 was a bad year for the flu, we know that but it was nothing like 1918.