THE 2017-18 flu season, which lasts, roughly, for the duration of the northern hemisphere’s autumn and winter, may end up being as deadly as the swine-flu pandemic of 2009. Pneumonia and influenza caused nearly 10% of all deaths in the week ending January 13th, which exceeds the definition for an epidemic, as used by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The recent hospitalisation rate for flu or pneumonia, 51 per 100,000 people, is at its highest for this time of year since more accurate tracking began in 2010. More than 50 children have already died in America. Why is this season’s flu so nasty?
The flu pandemic of 1918-20 invariably looms over such discussions. It infected 500m people, and killed between 50m and 100m. The situation in some cities was said to resemble an outbreak of bubonic plague. A shortage of coffins and a failure to collect all corpses led some parents to put their dead children into large macaroni boxes, notes Jen Wright, author of “Get Well Soon”, a book surveying historical epidemics. The pandemic...Continue reading