The Doctors and the 'Flu': The British Medical Profession's Response to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 (Report)
International Social Science Review 2010, Spring-Summer, 85, 1-2
International Social Science Review
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The development of medicine and its practitioners is a continuous process. In order to assess its state at any particular time, one must find a way to bring all of its activities, theoretical and practical, into focus. Asa Briggs, one of the preeminent British historians of the last half century, has correctly suggested that epidemics provide a lens that does this. (1) Doctors, whether in public service, private practice, or engaged in research, must face the crisis. Their very best efforts and tools are required and tested. Under such circumstances, particular talents are highlighted. At the same time, inadequacies in efficiency, skill, and learning that might easily go unnoticed under normal conditions become glaring faults. The influenza pandemic of 1918-19, due to its unusual virulence, gave a particularly clear focus to the status of the medical profession worldwide. Our understanding of just how terrible it was has grown significantly in recent analyses. The initial, and long trusted, estimate of twenty million deaths made by University of Chicago bacteriologist Edwin O. Jordan in 1927 is really based on the impact of the pandemic on the economically developed Western world. (2) Recent studies have made clear that Jordan's figure should at least be doubled, possibly quadrupled. (3) Alfred Crosby, an American historian of the pandemic, asserts that "[b]y conservative estimate, a fifth of the human race endured the fever and aches of influenza in 1918 and 1919, and serologic [now more commonly serological; concerning blood fluids] evidence indicates that an enormous majority of those fortunates who did not suffer the discomforts of flu did, however, have sub-clinical cases of the infection." (4) This paper examines how the British medical profession handled the situation in 1918-19 as an example of how medical institutions in one of the leading industrial and scientific nations of the early twentieth century reacted to this medical crisis. As this study will show, although much knowledge needed to respond to the pandemic simply was not available, British doctors had access to much more information than most medical professionals in other countries--some exceptions will be noted--to combat this health crisis.
- 2,99 €
- Category: Social Science
- Published: 22 March 2010
- Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu
- Print Length: 28 Pages
- Language: English