[Everyone knows that the COVID-19 virus the world has been suffering through is the first global pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918. So we’re talking about an event that perhaps occurs only once every century, right? Everybody knows this is a once per century event, Right? What if I told you that is not right? What if I told you we had another pandemic that no one seems to remember a little more than 50 years ago? I was 14 years old in 1957, so surely I would remember such an event. Who could not? Well, the answer seems to be that nearly all of us don’t remember it. Pause for a moment from the daily grind and read this article from the Smithsonian Magazine of June 2020.]
The story of the medical researcher whose quick action protected millions of Americans from a new contagion
In April 1957, a new strain of lethal respiratory virus emerged in East Asia, caught local health authorities by surprise and eventually killed masses of people worldwide. Today, in the age of Covid-19, that scenario sounds frighteningly familiar – with one key difference. Maurice Hilleman, an American microbiologist then running influenza monitoring efforts at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, saw the problem coming and prepared the Unites States ahead of time. “This is the pandemic,” he recalled. “It’s here.”
Hilleman arranged for the U.S. military to ship samples of the pathogen, believed to be a novel influenza virus. From Hong Kong to his lab in Washington D.C. For five days and nights, his team tested it against blood from thousands of Americans. They found that this strain, H2N2, was unlike any flu that humans were knows to have encountered. When it reached the United Stated, no one would be immune.