1889–90 flu pandemic

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The 1889–1890 flu pandemic (October 1889 – December 1890, with recurrences March – June 1891, November 1891 – June 1892, spring 1893 and winter 1893–1894) was a deadly influenza pandemic that killed about 1 million people worldwide. The outbreak was dubbed "Asiatic flu" or "Russian flu" (not to be confused with the 1977–1978 epidemic caused by Influenza A/USSR/90/77 H1N1, which was also called Russian flu). For some time the virus strain responsible was conjectured (but not proven) to be Influenza A virus subtype H2N2.[1][2] More recently, the strain was asserted to be Influenza A virus subtype H3N8.[3]

Outbreak and spread[edit]

The 1889 Russian flu was the first pandemic to occur in the modern connected world. The 19 largest European countries, including Russia, had 202,887 km of railroads and transatlantic travel by boat took less than six days (not significantly different than current travel time by air, given the time scale of the global spread of a pandemic).[3]

The pandemic was first recorded in Saint Petersburg, Russia in December 1889. In four months it had spread throughout the northern hemisphere. Deaths peaked in St Petersburg on December 1, 1889 and in the United States during the week of January 12, 1890. The median time between the first reported case and peak mortality was five weeks.[3]

Identification of virus subtype responsible[edit]

Researchers have tried for many years to identify the subtypes of Influenza A responsible for the 1889–1890, 1898–1900 and 1918 epidemics. Initially, this work was primarily based on "seroarcheology"—the detection of antibodies to influenza infection in the sera of elderly people—and it was thought that the 1889 pandemic was caused by H2N2, the 1900 epidemic by H3N8, and a 1910 outbreak by H1N1.[4] With the confirmation of H1N1 as the cause of the 1918 flu pandemic following identification of H1N1 antibodies in exhumed corpses, reanalysis of seroarcheological data has indicated that H3N8 is the most likely cause for the 1889–1890 pandemic.[3][4]

Notable deaths[edit]

Initial pandemic[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hilleman 2002, p. 3068.
  2. ^ Alexis Madrigal (April 26, 2010). "1889 Pandemic Didn’t Need Planes to Circle Globe in 4 Months". Wired Science. 
  3. ^ a b c d Valleron, Alain-Jacques; Cori, Anne; Valtat, Sophie; Meurisse, Sofia; Carrat, Fabrice; Boëlle, Pierre-Yves (May 11, 2010). "Transmissibility and geographic spread of the 1889 influenza pandemic". PNAS 107 (19): 8778–8781. doi:10.1073/pnas.1000886107. PMC 2889325. PMID 20421481. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Dowdle, W.R. (1999), "Influenza A virus recycling revisited", Bulletin of the World Health Organization (Geneva: WHO) 77 (10), PMC 2557748, retrieved June 19, 2013