Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Take Two And Call Me In The Morning - Historical Flu Pandemics

The news lately is filled with stories of the latest flu outbreak across the US.  These outbreaks, called pandemics (or wide spread epidemics), crop up from time to time.  There have been four influenza pandemics since the "Spanish flu" of 1918/1919 when an estimated 50 million people died. Other pandemics occurred in 1957/1958, 1968/1969, and 2009/2010.  For additional information on these individual pandemics and other years a potential pandemic was feared, visit the government's website: Pandemic Flu History.  This site contains links to additional resources, including a PBS documentary, information from the National Archives, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

If during your research you encounter numerous death dates occurring close together in a family or community, disease might be the common denominator and but not necessarily from influenza.  Malaria, yellow fever, small pox, measles, and dysentery are but a few other possible diseases that might have swept through your family's community.  If death certificates are not available to determine cause of death, try checking newspaper reports for any mention of local outbreaks or an obituary might possibly provide a clue as to the cause of death and the duration of any illness.

When studied on a larger family scale across generations, "medical genealogy" can provide clues to health risks that run in families, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, etc and can indicate increased risks of developing those conditions.  That's why doctors often ask if there is a family history of certain conditions.  Communicable diseases such as the flu would not fall into these often genetically linked conditions unless the immune system was already compromised but it's still a good idea to know your medical background for your own personal well being.

May you enjoy good health and success as you continue your research!

No comments:

Post a Comment