The flu is back in force this year — especially a strain that attacks younger, healthier people and can cause serious, even life-threatening, illness.
Fortunately, this year’s vaccine can protect against it — unlike in 2009, when the same strain of the virus arrived after the vaccine was made.
And it’s a far better situation than back in 1918, when a slightly different strain killed 650,000 Americans.
Those two historic outbreaks can teach us a lot, says University of Michigan Medical historian and pediatrician Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D. His team has studied flu history for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q: What does studying past flu outbreaks teach us about flu? Isn’t this a virus we know a lot about already?
A: What’s really interesting is that as much as we know, we still don’t know that much about flu. We know more than we did in 1918 – but we still don’t have a lot of good information. Continue reading