Posts Tagged ‘influenza pandemic’

Professor John Oxford on the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic

17 May 2010

Contributed by Ida Milne

More than 90 years after the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed in excess of 40m people worldwide,  researchers at either side of the Atlantic continue to disagree about whether it actually began in Europe or on US soil. British virologist Professor John Oxford, one of the world’s leading influenza researchers, gave his views on this and the continuing threats posed by other influenzas at a public lecture in the Science Gallery [on Friday 7 May]. Ida Milne reports from the lecture:

Was Patient Zero in the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic really mess cook Private Albert Gitchell, from Fort Riley, Kansas, who fell ill  on 11 March 1918?

This  claim by US investigators has gained mileage in the popular press. The idea of being able to identify Patient Zero in a pandemic which killed more that 50 million people is media-friendly, if romantic.

Professor John Oxford, who specializes in the pathogenicity of the influenza virus, in particular the 1918 strain, believes it more likely that the pandemic began in army clearing houses in northern France in 1917.

He is excited about new historical research which suggests a link between Jeffrey Taubenberger’s claim for an American origin, and his own belief that the evidence points toward an earlier outbreak at the army base at Étaples. Read more