Writing Assignment: America’s Forgotten Pandemic I. Introduction Influenza is a disease that is usually regarded as a mild and self-limiting infection. However, in 1918 a new strain of the influenza virus emerged and took the world’s human population by storm. The worldwide death toll from this single virus in one year is conservatively estimated at 50 million-making it the deadliest single disease outbreak in history. For many years historians as well as the medical community ignored this terrifying episode as if it were too horrible to contemplate. However, in recent times scientists have begun to re-examine the “forgotten” pandemic in the hope of learning valuable lessons for the future. This viewing/writing assignment will help you to understand the history of the forgotten pandemic as well as modern attempt to unlock its mysteries.
II. Instructions 1) Log on to the youtube video web site:
2) Locate the video entitled America’s Forgotten Pandemic (aka We heard the Bells).
3) View the video. It is about an hour long. Skip over the advertisements. The video is a documentary about the 1918 flu pandemic in the US.
4) Use the discussion questions and discussion points given below to guide your viewing and be prepared to discuss the questions and points in class and in the writing assignment on this video.
5) To receive credit for this assignment you must complete both the writing assignment as explained in Section IV below.
III. Discussion Questions and Points on America’s Forgotten Pandemic: How did the US compare to the number of US deaths in World War I?
How many people typically die every year from the “seasonal” flu in the US?
What does the term “pandemic” mean? Explain the difference between seasonal flu and pandemic flu.
What is the causative agent of influenza? Was this known in 1918? If not, what was thought to be the causative agent?
Why is the 1918 event correctly called a “pandemic’ and not an “epidemic”?
What happened to the pandemic strain of influenza? In other words, where did it go and why isn’t it killing people today?
At what time of year did the 1918 flu strike in the US and how does that compare to the usual time that seasonal flu strikes?
What was the typical effect of the 1918 flu pandemic on Native American settlements such as Inuit villages and pueblo-based communities in the Southwest?
What age group in the population was most susceptible to the lethal effects of the 1918 flu and how does that compare to seasonal flu?
What city in Pennsylvania was particularly heavily affected by the 1918 flu and what were some of the reasons that this city suffered so much? In contrast, what were measures that other cities took that spared them much of the devastation of the pandemic?
How many influenza pandemics have occurred since 1900 and in what years did they take place?
What are some of the ideas that people have put forward to explain why the 1918 flu was so deadly?
(Note-there is still no scientific consensus on this yet, just ideas and hypotheses)
Who is Dr. Anthony Fauci-i.e what position does he hold that entitles him to be a talking head on this video?
Where is Brevig Mission and what role did it play in the investigation of the 1918 flu?
Who were Johann Hultin, Jeffrey Taubenberger and Ann Read and what were their roles in the investigation of the 1918 flu? How did Hultin and Taubenberger in particular work together?
What is the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology?
What were the results of Hultin’s initial expedition to Alaska and how did they contrast with the results of the second expedition? What factors enabled the relative success of the second expedition?
When a scientist such as Taubenberger refers to the “sequence” of a virus-what is he talking about?
What are some of the ways that scientists are using the 1918 virus to help protect us against deadly new flu strains?
How does the emergence of the 1918 flu qualify as a “spillover” event?
What is H5N1 flu?
IV. Writing Assignment Writing: After you have viewed the assignment and thought about your answers to discussion questions, write a brief summary of the video. Approximately one-half of a standard page is sufficient (approx. 250 words). Write your brief summary as though it is intended for a group of IUP students at about your own level of education. Use complete sentences organized in paragraph format for your summary. Write your summary to briefly explain the key points of the video as if you were presenting them to someone who had not viewed it. In order to receive full credit your summary must be scientifically accurate and backed up by specific examples from the video. There is no right or wrong way to write or organize the summary. Use your own words. Your grade for this part of the assignment will depend on your accuracy and how well you use examples.
In addition to your brief summary, address the following question in your writing assignment. An additional 250 words should be sufficient for the answer to the following question, bringing the overall writing assignment including both parts to a total of approximately 500 words. The question has three parts, each dealing with an aspect of the developed world’s attitude toward emerging disease and to the societies in which emerging diseases occur.
Question: It is possible today to recreate the entire 1918 pandemic flu from pathology samples and use it to infect laboratory cultures and experimental animals such as mice, guinea pigs and hamsters. Predictably, the test animals usually die right away from the deadly effects of the resurrected 1918 flu. Scientists have persisted in these experiments for several years in the hope that their studies will lead to a better understanding of the mechanism whereby the 1918 flu causes its deadly outcomes and then to better medicines against the flu and better ways to treat it. Do you think it is a good idea to recreate this deadly disease for experimental purposes or is it just too dangerous to have around?
Write your answer as though it is intended for a group of IUP students at about your own level of education. Use complete sentences organized in paragraph format for your answer.
Grade: The written part of the assignment will count toward the “Writing” component of your grade as outlined in your semester syllabus with the summary and the answer to the question weighted equally in the grade.
The assignment is due on Tuesday November 10 2:00 PM in hard copy format.
V. A Final Note Make sure that you save a copy of your notes and answers to discussion questions.
Some version or form of the discussion questions above is likely to appear on a course exam.
Feel free to ask questions about this material.