A Brief History Of: Flu Pandemics

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Seattle policemen wearing protective gauze face masks during influenza epidemic of 1918 which claimed millions of lives worldwide.

A few days of fever, chills and generally feeling rotten: that's a typical case of the flu. But several times a century, flu viruses mutate so radically that they can trigger a pandemic--as health experts fear could happen with swine flu. Influenza may go all the way back to the dawn of medicine; a similar illness was first described by Hippocrates, in Greece in 412 B.C. In 1485, a flulike "sweating sickness" swept across Britain, leaving many dead--and treatments of the time, including the bleeding of patients, didn't help.

The latest pandemics, in 1957 and 1968, were mild, with global death...