Hunt for the Killer Flu
In 1918, between 20 and 40 million people died in the influenza pandemic. The majority of victims were young, healthy, adults—usually the demographic least vulnerable to influenza mortality. What caused this virulent strain? Why and how did it kill its victims so rapidly? Are we at risk today for a similar pandemic? Investigative Reports follows the efforts of scientists to discover the answers to these and other questions to the influenza known as the "Spanish Flu." Through technological advances and painstaking research, scientists are slowly unraveling the mystery of the Spanish Flu and its deadly virus. Hunt for the Killer Flu would be useful for classes on World History, American History, Science and Technology, Health and Geography. It is appropriate for middle school and high school.
Students will learn about the 1918 influenza pandemic and current scientific investigations of the pandemic. They will explore the scientific methodologies used in tracing the flu as well as the moral and ethical issues of exhumation for scientific research.
Virginia Aronson, The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 (Chelsea House Publishers, 2000) Reading level: Young Adult
David Getz, Peter McCarty (Illustrator), The Purple Death: The Mysterious Flu of 1918 (Henry Holt & Company, Incorporated, 2000) Reading level: Ages 9-12
Fred Ramen, Influenza (Rosen Publishing Group, Incorporated, 2000) Reading level: Young Adult
Karen Hesse, A Time of Angels (Hyperion, 2000) Reading level: Ages 9-12
Gina Bari Kolata, Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It (Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks, 2001) Reading level: Adult
The 1918 influenza outbreak was a pandemic. What is a pandemic? How is it different than a local or contained outbreak?
Scientists exhumed bodies in the arctic for tissue samples. Why was this region chosen to obtain the samples?
Every year the influenza virus mutates. How do these mutations contribute to the seriousness of the illness?
What were the origins of the Hong Kong Flu? How did authorities address these findings?
Dr. Kristin Duncan is the leader of the 1918 project. What prompted Duncan to search for the 1918 flu victims?
What is the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology? How did it contribute to the search for the virus?
Why did the archived tissue originally fail to solve the mystery, thereby giving the green light to Duncan's expedition?
Discuss the differences between Dr. Johan Hultin's expedition and Dr. Duncan's expedition.
There are some very real and dangerous risks of researching live viruses. What are some of these risks? How might some of these risks endanger great numbers of people?
Dr. Hultin discovered tissue samples on a body he called Lucy. Why was Lucy's tissue so well preserved?
How did scientists determine that Lucy's tissue had the influenza strain and that she was indeed a victim of the 1918 influenza pandemic?
Design a commemorative medal, poster or plaque for the victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic.
What was the world like in 1918? Research this era and recreate a day in your life if you lived in 1918.