August 06, 2008
Bacteria Were Big Killers In 1918 Flu Pandemic

This is good and useful news because we have far better drugs to fight bacteria than we do to fight viruses.

Medical and scientific experts now agree that bacteria, not influenza viruses, were the greatest cause of death during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Government efforts to gird for the next influenza pandemic bird flu or otherwise ought to take notice and stock up on antibiotics, says John Brundage, a medical microbiologist at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Brundage's team culled first-hand accounts, medical records and infection patterns from 1918 and 1919. Although a nasty strain of flu virus swept around the world, bacterial pneumonia that came on the heels of mostly mild cases of flu killed the majority of the 20 to 100 million victims of the so-called Spanish flu, they conclude.

If the H5N1 avian influenza or some other flu strain mutates into a form that cause cause a severe pandemic then a big store of antibiotics could help. If you are into personal survival and don't trust your government then you could try to talk a doctor into giving you some antibiotic prescriptions and then store the drugs in a cool dry place. Anyone know about shelf life for various antibiotics? Which ones last the longest?

The most important thing to do in a pandemic is to avoid getting exposed to the virus in the first place. While facial masks can help simply staying away from other people is the best way to avoid a bug.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 August 06 11:43 PM  Pandemic Prepare Drugs

Ned said at August 7, 2008 6:02 AM:

This was suspected at the time of the epidemic. Dr. Ernest Goodpasture, a distinguished American pathologist, did a lot of work on it (Goodpasture EW. The significance of certain pulmonary lesions in relation to the etiology of influenza. Am J Med Sci 1919;158:863-70). Influenza can be a very nasty disease, but the secondary bacterial pneumonia that often follows is a real killer. Fortunately we now have antibiotics and antivirals and ventilators and diuretics and all sorts of other wonderful stuff that we lacked in 1918.

Bob Badour said at August 7, 2008 7:52 AM:


You mentioned face masks and isolation. Even more important than face masks is hand sanitation.

Tim said at August 7, 2008 8:04 AM:

How about simply getting a pneumonia vaccination as a preventative? Got one myself a few years back along with my yearly flu shot.

Tim said at August 7, 2008 8:06 AM:

How about simply getting a pneumonia vaccination as a preventative? Got one myself a few years back along with my yearly flu shot.

bbm said at August 7, 2008 7:00 PM:

Tim has a good point. Usually given routinely only to the elderly, perhaps the Pneumovax should be given out more. It only lasts a few years IIRC and has to be renewed.

There's also the H. flu vaccine.

Brian H said at May 4, 2009 10:58 PM:

The anti-bacterial soaps and lotions serve primarily to breed hardier and nastier bacteria. You are committing biowar crime against the world if you use them.

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