From the late 19th century on, the world has fought back against flu viruses. Deadly to many over the decades, scientists and researches manned their battle stations in the fight against a tiny, deadly invader. Over the course of many years the world see several kinds of flu–from the “Spanish flu” in 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide, to the fear of our own battles in 2009 when swine flu threatened the livelihood of many.
In this most recent scare, people stood in long lines, waited for hours and begged for vaccines to protect themselves and their children. The sight of people wearing surgical masks to prevent contracting the highly contagious virus was commonplace, and restrictions were put into place around the world to reduce transmission rates and hopefully slow its spread.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was on high alert as it monitored the spread of disease from its suspected origins in Mexico where 900 people were initially infected, to countries around the world. Travel and flight restrictions were put into place to try to slow down transmission rates, but nothing worked. As the virus spread into cases in California and Texas, the whole world watched the Americas–and feared the spread of this unknown swine flu.
Just a few months after its advancement, in June 2009, swine flu was officially deemed a pandemic by the WHO and flu vaccine manufacturing went into overdrive. Unfortunately, there were many snags in the process which resulted in more fear and worry for the public. Because the vaccine was not fully studied for safety before release for use, many people feared its potential side effects. The vaccine also took more virus to produce vaccine, and it grew at a rate of only half of traditional flu virus slowed vaccine production rapidly. When combined with the realization that flu’s most common prescription defense–Tamiflu–was ineffective on the H1N1 virus, the CDC was forced to take drastic measures.
Deciding instead to give its traditional flu vaccine instead, and skip all the regulatory red tape so that they could hopefully prepare for another wave of illness in the months to come. Researchers are still studying this mysterious strain of swine flu in an attempt to understand it more effectively. Swine flu killed thousands of people that year–mostly those with underlying medical conditions. But the death toll was far lower than what scientists had originally feared. Each year the government begins anew the task of encouraging everyone to take a flu shot. The 2010-11 flu vaccine was even marketed as a “trio” of vaccines in one–and included the H1N1 vaccine as well.
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