Sunday , October 2 2022

Table later, UI experts reminisce of deadly influenza epidemic, are preparing for a new season of influenza


"Loss of flu cases". "Influenza is looking for ten new victims since last year." "Faculty members and students have their exams at the University Hospital."

These are some of the titles published in Daili Iovan, a student magazine from the University of Iowa, 1918, when the Spanish influenza took the lives of 38 students and faculty members.

In the autumn of 1918, when the first cases of influenza were confirmed in the campus, then President of the UI Valter A. Jessup wrote the editor at the front page in DI urging students and faculties to "co-operate in the fight against influenza". When a group of members of the Army in the UI was ill with flu, the group was quarantined. "They will be limited to the campus and their barracks … to prevent any contagious disease," says the story of October 3, 1918 DI. "People suffering from an epidemic are being treated in an isolated hospital unit."

Today, a century later, State Hygiene Laboratory experts at the University of Iowa use state-of-the-art scientific technology to quickly and accurately identify various infectious diseases, including influenza. Lab microbiologists and molecular scientists were among the first in the country to successfully detect the deadly H1N1 swine flu in 2009, and also created a new test to detect droplets in 2006 when the virus affected nearly 1,500 Iovan.

"The State Hygiene Laboratory has a long service history in Iowa," says Michael Pentella, a clinical microbiologist and director of State Hygienic Lab. "Often, because much of our work is done for other government agencies, the public is not aware of the Iowa University's contribution, but there is an exceptional level of expertise and innovation that goes into our work, a work that protects the health and well-being of Iovan every day of the year."

An epidemic of influenza like no other

As the flu expanded in Iowa in 1918, health officials warned tenants to stay away from large crowds and set water tubs to radiators at home to keep air in the air. There was something else they could do to fight the disease; the virus of the influenza virus has not been identified yet, and the vaccine against it has remained a decade far. By the time the epidemic ended in early 1919, more than 7,000 Iovan and some 20 million people died worldwide.

"The 1918 influenza epidemic was interesting because it was a major pathogenic virus that caused death in most young people in the first life," Pentela says. "Today, typically older people, and the young people we care about are swamp flu, but this epidemic hit people in their twenties, thirties and forties, and life expectancy has been filled all over the world because so many people died."

Excerpt from 1922 Daili Iovan an article pointing to a 1918 influenza epidemic. Images obtained from the University of Iowa University-Special Collections.

Doctors are confused about the disease. City officials throughout the country ordered the closure of theaters, movie houses, dance halls, pools and skyscrapers, and outdoor athletic facilities reduced watches or completely closed, according to the "Iowa Fight Against Spanish Flu", published by the State Historical Society Iowa 1981. years. A soccer match between UI and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was closed to the public for concern about the spread of the disease and instead played in an almost empty stadium with only members Attending the training of the Iowa student army corps.

In the campus of students, students were encouraged to use wipes to cover their mouths when kissing or coughing, and some faculty meetings were canceled, according to local newspapers from that time. Donation of blankets and bedding was demanded by queens of the student army in quarantine, and students of the elderly were invited to enter the university hospital to take care of the sick. The DI He regularly reports to the death of a student, alumni and faculty, often due to flu-like pneumonia.

Pentella was appointed director of the State Hygiene Laboratory in 2018, in the midst of one of the worst episodes of influenza in recent history. During the flu season 2017-18, 270 Iovans died, twice as much as the previous year. In preparation for the 2018-19 flu season, Pentella and its staff recently issued guidelines for influenza testing and encouraged Iowa residents to get a flu vaccine.

"The state hygiene laboratory works with the Public Health Department of Iowa to conduct surveillance activities," says Pentela. "Our specific role is laboratory-based surveillance, where we test the virus of the influenza virus. If detected, we determine the subtype and infection syndrome of an infected patient."

The UI influenza study saves lives

The UI has several important links to the 1918 influenza epidemic. In 1931 Richard Shope, a parent and graduate of the University of Ireland, Roi J. and Lilleham A. Carver College of Medicine, discovered a swine flu that was very close to human influenza virus. A few years later, in 1936, a group of British scientists, with the help of Shope, identified this virus far apart from the one that caused the influenza epidemic in 1918.

Another graduate humanitarian engineer, Johan Hultin, investigated the cause of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic as a graduate student of microbiology in the 1950s trying to isolate the virus from the body of Alaskan inhabitants buried in permafrost. Although initially unsuccessful, Hultin returned to Alaska four decades later and, with the help of advanced scientific techniques, was able to characterize the flu virus. As a result, scientists have since been able to develop vaccines in the case of another pandemic associated with the 1918 Spanish influenza.

"If you look back to 1918 when they first saw all these deaths, they did not even know what the cause was because microbiology was still in the beginning," Pentela says. "They tried to determine the cause, and for that they would take samples from the patients, and then try to grow the organism that caused them to get sick. They grew a bacterium and thought it was the cause of the flu, but now we know it is only secondary pathogenic influenza from which people suffer. "

In addition to her work at the National Hygiene Laboratory, Pentella also teaches the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the UI Public Health College, where she brings her experience in managing viruses in the classroom. Pentela co-lectures with Christina Petersen, associate professor and director of the Center for Infectious Diseases. Petersen says he appreciates the strong relationship between laboratory and college, which stimulates exciting research topics.

"We currently have researchers studying the immune response of the body to the flu, as well as the link between fever and the onset of flu," she says. "There are also studies related to the possible link between flood and influenza. It's important that we better understand the flu virus because the flu can be deadly."

Influenza vaccine and peace of mind

In the years since the outbreak in 1918, much has changed in how microbiologists study the influenza virus and how it has been struck by medical professionals, including the creation of a flu vaccine in the early 1940s and the use of large public health campaigns to encourage vaccinations.

"The best way to avoid the flu is to get a vaccine," says Jorge Salinas, an epidemiologist at the UI Hospital & & Clinics and assistant professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases. "You need to get a vaccine every year because there are new studies that show that getting a vaccine gives even more protection every year."

The strains of flu viruses that fight against influenza flu are changing from year to year, says Salinas, with specific species selected by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (VHO) experts. "They are evaluating the trends of viral infections in the United States and other countries around the world and are trying to predict the types of influenza that will most likely circulate during the upcoming flu season," says Salinas.

In 1918, without such monitoring capabilities, public health officials were in a disadvantage, says Salinas. In addition, the viral flu virus circulating in 1918 was probably a beam that most people never met, so their bodies were less able to fight it.

"There is a new type of flu every day, and this type of flu tend to have an even higher mortality rate, and sometimes it can lead to a pandemic," says Salinas. Swine flu from 2009 is one example, he added.

File photo by the Office for Strategic Communication.

Laboratory dedicated to public safety

Today, the National Hygiene Laboratory collects and studies flu viruses throughout the year, says Pentella. The laboratory uses a series of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to identify infectious diseases. These tests reveal selected nucleic acid regions that are unique to specific pathogens. PCR tests are more reliable than traditional methods and much faster, providing results in just a few hours.

"When the first cases of influenza appear, we ask the doctors and the labs to send samples and test them to determine which type of influenza leads to illness," Pentela says. "Then the sample continues to be characterized as being similar or uneven to the strain in the current vaccine."

The State Hygiene Laboratory shares information on local flu cases with CDCs, so that experts can continue to monitor influenza viruses worldwide.

"We are committed to discovering and monitoring, and I think it's an important business because we know how flu viruses spread to communities," Pentela says. "In this way doctors and public health officials can inform the public about health risks. Supervision is absolutely our first line of defense against the epidemic."

Pentela says scientists are currently studying an immune response to influenza virus with the goal of developing a universal influenza vaccine and that if they succeed, a better vaccine could be made.

"There are research that investigates a universal flu vaccine that will last several years," he says. "But this is a novel work, and sometimes we are happy and it goes fast and the other one takes many years."

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