Infectious Diseases: A2-Hong Kong-68, or Whatever

A plague was moving across the U.S. last week. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were sniffling, hacking, running low fevers and complaining that their bones ached. The vast majority of adults said they had "the flu," and many tried to show their medical sophistication by identifying it as "Hong Kong flu."

In most cases, the precise identity of the affliction and the microbe causing it was unknown. Cautious doctors described their patients' illnesses simply as "URD" or "URI" (for upper respiratory disease, or upper respiratory infection) and let it go at that. Whatever its nature, the illness was emptying schools...

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