The History of Influenza from Devasatation to Discovery
The World Health Organization (WHO)
estimates between three and five million
cases of severe illness and between
250,000 and 500,000 deaths occur
each year due to influenza. Learning Activity
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons in public health was the “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918–1919. All influenza A pandemics have since resulted from the 1918 virus, including “drifted” H1N1 viruses and reassorted H2N2 and H3N2 viruses. The devastation caused by this pandemic then lead to the discovery of human influenza type A virus in 1933 and the development of the first vaccine in 1937. Influenza type B was then identified in 1940.
The following decades resulted in significant discoveries: introduction of antiviral treatments, rapid diagnostics, and improvements in surveillance and treatment. It is important for healthcare professionals to understand this chronology of events and to look foward to continued improvements in surveillance, identification, and the treatment of influenza. This accredited, self-study program is designed for these purposes.