1957–1958 influenza pandemic
The strain of virus that caused the pandemic, influenza A virus subtype H2N2, was a recombination of avian influenza (probably from geese) and human influenza viruses. As it was a novel strain of the virus, there was minimal immunity in the population.
The first cases were reported in Guizhou in late 1956 or February 1957, and were reported in the neighboring province of Yunnan before the end of February. On 17 April, The Times reported that "an influenza epidemic has affected thousands of Hong Kong residents". By the end of the same month, Singapore also experienced an outbreak of the new flu, which peaked in mid-May with 680 deaths. In Taiwan, 100,000 were affected by mid-May and India suffered a million cases by June. In late June, the pandemic reached the United Kingdom.
By June 1957 it reached the United States, where it initially caused few infections. Some of the first affected were United States Navy personnel at destroyers docked at Newport Naval Station, as well as new military recruits elsewhere. The first wave peaked in October (among children who returned to school) and the second wave, in January and February 1958 among elderly people, which was more fatal. Microbiologist Maurice Hilleman was alarmed by pictures of those affected by the virus in Hong Kong published in The New York Times. He obtained samples of the virus from a United States Navy doctor in Japan. The Public Health Service released the virus cultures to vaccine manufacturers on 12 May 1957, and a vaccine entered trials at Fort Ord on 26 July and Lowry Air Force Base on 29 July. The number of deaths peaked the week ending 17 October with 600 reported in England and Wales. The vaccine was available in the same month in the United Kingdom. Although it was available initially only in limited quantities, its rapid deployment helped contain the pandemic.
The case fatality rate of Asian flu was approximately 0.67%. The disease was estimated to have a 3% rate of complications and 0.3% mortality in the United Kingdom; it could cause pneumonia by itself, without the presence of secondary bacterial infection. It may have infected as many or more people than the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, but the vaccine, improved health care, and the invention of antibiotics contributed to a lower mortality rate. Overall, the pandemic caused 1 to 2 million deaths worldwide or 2 to 4 million. The UK Government estimates that between 1 and 4 million people died worldwide. The CDC estimates 1.1 million deaths worldwide. According to a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the highest excess mortality occurred in Latin America. About 70,000 to 116,000 people died in the United States. In early 1958, it was estimated that 14,000 people had already died of the flu in the United Kingdom of the 9 million who became sick. It caused many infections in children, spreading in schools and leading to many school closures, but was rarely fatal in children. The virus was most deadly in pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing heart and lung disease. According to the researcher Barbara Sands,[who?][when?] some of the excess mortality attributed to the Great Leap Forward in Maoist China may have actually been caused by the 1957 flu.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 15% of its value in the second half of 1957. In the United Kingdom, the government paid out £10 000 000 in sickness benefit and some factories and mines had to close. Many schools had to close in Ireland, including 17 in Dublin.
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Perhaps a better parallel is the flu pandemic of 1957 and ’58, which originated in East Asia and killed at least 1 million people, including an estimated 116,000 in the U.S. In the second half of 1957, the Dow fell about 15 percent. “Other things happened over that time period” too, Wald notes, but “at least there was no world war.”
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- Mullally, Una. "An 'Asian flu' pandemic closed 17 Dublin schools in 1957". The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1957–1958 influenza pandemic.|
- Chowell, Gerardo; Simonsen, Lone; Fuentes, Rodrigo; Flores, Jose; Miller, Mark A.; Viboud, Cécile (May 2017). "Severe mortality impact of the 1957 influenza pandemic in Chile". Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. 11 (3): 230–239. doi:10.1111/irv.12439. PMC 5410718. PMID 27883281.
- Cobos, April J.; Nelson, Clinton G.; Jehn, Megan; Viboud, Cécile; Chowell, Gerardo (2016). "Mortality and transmissibility patterns of the 1957 influenza pandemic in Maricopa County, Arizona". BMC Infectious Diseases. 16 (1): 405. doi:10.1186/s12879-016-1716-7. ISSN 1471-2334. PMC 4982429. PMID 27516082.