(Last Updated On: April 17, 2010)
I started reading this book last spring as news of “Swine Flu” was just starting to make the news every night. The first 100 pages were difficult and dry to get through, and mostly dealt with the state of medicine preceding the 1918 “Spanish Influenza” epidemic. Medicine was only starting to modernize at that time and move from things like bloodletting to actual science. The book started getting interesting after that, mostly because of the parallels between the 1918 flu and the Swine Flu of today. Both of these viruses are a strain of H1N1. Both epidemics started off fairly mild in the spring, but the 1918 variety got deadly by the following fall. Both times, the diseases stuck around throughout the summer, a rarity for the influenza virus. Today, as in 1918, those who are younger and seemingly healthier are dying at a higher rate than older people, which typically suffer the most from “regular” flu.
Well, does this have anything to do with skiing or biking or anything that 14erskiers usually covers? Interestingly, the book did make mention of nearby Colorado towns and how they dealt with the 1918 Influenza. Gunnison, CO enforced total isolation of the town- no one was allowed in without going to jail for a 5 day quarantine first. In Sargents, at the base of nearby Monarch Pass, there were 6 deaths in just one day out of a population of 130. It seems that quarantines worked…
This year’s H1N1 isn’t anywhere near as deadly, but it does bring up the question of when a deadly influenza virus may occur. I say when because it seems probable that another deadly epidemic will occur at some point during our lifetimes. True, modern medicine will help many more than could be helped in 1918, but the book does raise a number of questions regarding our current level of preparedness. This book could be 200 pages shorter, as it goes over some of the same points over and over again, but I’d still recommend it to anyone interested in history or wants some background on the current “Swine Flu”.