ORIGIN OF NAME

  • In Italian the word influenza means “influence”. This refers to the influence people believed the sun, moon, planets, and stars had on human affairs, including health and disease. The English started using the word in the 1700s, and it has since become abbreviated to “flu”.

to the WHO, worldwide the flu causes around 250 000-500 000 deaths annually.

HISTORY

  • Hippocrates first reported a flu-like disease in the year 412 BC
  • There have been four major flu epidemics in the last century. The Spanish Flu, Asian Flu (1-4 million deaths), Hong-Kong Flu (1968-1969) which killed approximately one million people, and most recently Swine Flu, which caused over 12 000 deaths worldwide. The Spanish Flu (1918-1919) caused the highest known mortality rates from influenza-related deaths ever – approximately 20 million worldwide. It killed more Americans in one year than the combined total who died in battle during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War
  • The first well documented human pandemic occurred in 1889-90 and was called the Russian flu (H2N2) and killed approximately one million people
  • Thomas Francis and Jonas Salk (who later developed the polio vaccine) developed the first flu vaccine in 1944. These early vaccines often contained impurities that produced fever, headaches, and other side effects. The flu vaccine in its various forms has been used for over 60 years

SCARY FACTS

  • Flu viruses are more resilient than many others and can live on hard, non-porous surfaces for up to 48 hours and approximately 12 hours on tissues and cloth. They can remain infectious for about one week at human body temperature, over 30 days at freezing temperatures, and indefinitely at temperatures below freezing
  • Viruses mutate more in one day than humans did in several million years. They mutate so quickly due to their rapid rate of reproduction, their inability to fix their mutations, and their ability to exchange genes with one another
  • There are an unknown number of strains. The flu itself is constantly mutating. Each year, 3-4 strains are identified before vaccine development begins
  • Even with today’s powerful antibiotics, bacterial pneumonia is the most common complication of the flu, and most flu-related deaths are due to it
  • You’re more likely to pick up germs from a keypad than a used tissue
  • Your work surface may have 400x more bacteria than the average toilet seat
  • A single cold virus can have 16 million offspring within 24 hours
  • A single sneeze can spray 100 000 germs into the air, which is why you should keep a 2m distance from a sneezing sick person
  • The first-floor button in an elevator harbours the most bacteria and germs
  • 20% of handbags contain more bacteria than the average toilet seat

MEDICAL ADVANCEMENT

  • The annual flu shot may soon be a thing of the past. According to a new study in the Journal of Virology, a vaccine capable of staving off all, or at least most, strains of the virus for years could be a reality within the next 5-7 years

THE NUMBERS

  • Scientists believe that flu pandemics occur two or three times each century
  • On average adults over 30 catch the annual flu just twice every 10 years
  • Influenza kills more people than dreaded diseases like Ebola. According to the WHO, worldwide the flu causes around 250 000-500 000 deaths annually
  • Most grown-ups have 2-4 colds a year, children can easily get 6-10