Okay, today the Regimental Brewmeister went in for his influenza vaccine. If you have not done this (or made plans to do so soon), you are a fool. There has been a lot of talk for the last two years about pandemics but remember, these are not new and these are NEVER going away so take precautions.
Epidemics of influenza occur in most countries and common annual events. The severity and timing are hard to predict but epidemics tend to occur in winter months when it’s cold, people crowd together and indoor humilities are higher (due to burning fuel for heat). Epidemics are more likely to occur when the virus changes its antigenic character from previous strains, making immunity, acquired by previous infection, less strong. This is why its important to renew your vaccination annually.
The first accepted global influenza (recorded) appeared in Russia in 1729 and spread westward and southward into Europe in the winter of 1729. A ‘second invasion’ also began in Russia three years later, in 1732, and it again spread widely, even reaching the Americas. Whether these were two pandemics separated by a very short interval or one pandemic with a long-delayed recurrence is not known. Both occurrences were associated with high mortality. After 1733 there was pronounced global influenza epidemic that lasted for a number of years, especially in 1737 to 1738, when America and Europe were invaded in the same month, and in 1742 to 1744, when European deaths associated with influenza-like illnesses reached extraordinary peaks.
The next wave of influenza occurred in 1761 and this pandemic is remarkable for the fact that it is said to have begun in the Americas spread from there to Europe and around the globe in 1762. Coming in the midst of Enlightenment fervor, the pandemic of 1762 was the first to be studied by multiple observers who communicated with each other in learned societies and through medical journals and books. Physicians carefully recorded observations on series of patients and attempted to understand what would later be called the pathophysiology of the disease. For example, they noted that influenza causes inflammation in the larynx, trachea and, in severe cases, the lungs. They also noted that sometimes, like in 1775, the infection impacts other species like horses.
By the 20th century, science was sufficiently sophisticated to understand that influenza was caused by a virus and to even anticipate when that influenza would occur. Unfortunately, we remained largely powerless to blunt the devastating impact of the disease. In 1918, a massive pandemic, infected almost 25% of the world’s population and KILLED over 21 million people (more than the total casualties in all four years of WW1!). Since then, we have learned to manufacture vaccines and antiviral drugs to forestall (if not prevent) infection but the risk of death from complications from the influenza remain, especially among the elderly and immunocompromised. SO, GET YOUR SHOTS!