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Paramedic’s Corner: The Captain of the Men of Death: A Story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Part III
Paramedic’s Corner: The Captain of the Men of Death: A Story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Part III

Ambulance Director Gary Carmack
In cases where we know the origin of pandemics, most started in Asia. Most scientists agree that the large population living in proximity to birds and pigs is why.

There are three different types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Type C seldom causes disease in humans. Type B does cause some disease, but not epidemics. Only type A causes epidemics or pandemics.

Pandemics usually only happen when there is a change in the gene structure of the old virus. This change is referred to as “antigen shift.” When antigen shifts occur, the immune system cannot recognize the antigen, and few people in the world would have antibodies developed for the new virus. Therefore the virus can explode through populations, sometimes with much danger.

Antigen shift occurs when a virus that normally infects birds attacks humans. Everyone knows about the dreaded “H5N1,” the so-called “bird-flu” that spread from chickens to people in Hong Kong in 1997. This virus infected several people and killed six. Thankfully, the virus has not spread human-to-human. All those who got sick were infected directly by chickens. H5N1 continues to survive in chickens; it reappeared in 2003 killing another person. We pray not, but if H5N1 ever learns to spread human-to-human, the worldwide death rate will be horrible. It is too terrifying to talk about for most people.

The current H1N1 virus, which just recently killed a 24-year-old woman in Missouri, is scary enough. H1N1 is a real threat, but thankfully vaccinations are being developed.

By the way, on the same day that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared H1N1 a pandemic, Egypt announced that it had 25 new cases of H5N1...

The question most people have is this: “How can my family and I be protected?”

Here are some items of advice:

• As soon as the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, get one. This is the most powerful tool there is to protect you. Remember, the seasonal flu shot does not protect you from H1N1; you need to get both.

• Another tool is to wash your hands with soap and water a lot. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay away from others as much as possible to avoid making them sick. Stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. This means 24 hours fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

• Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

Related articles

Paramedic’s Corner: The Captain of the Men of Death: A Story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Part I
Paramedic’s Corner: The Captain of the Men of Death: A Story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Part II
Paramedic’s Corner: The Captain of the Men of Death: A Story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Part III

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