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Health 101: The Deadly H1N1 Way Back In 1976


The H1N1 virus is up close under the microscope and this virus is also known as the swine flu. Image source: Wikipedia

As of late, the number of people infected with the H1N1 virus is 80 (my last count) and is increasing.

Just imagine how fast this virus is spreading – we detected the first case on the 15th of May 2009, we panicked that the H1N1 has reached our shores, over a couple of days, we got relaxed and wham bam, within a month, 79 more cases have been detected. The virus is spreading in schools too and it is just a matter of time before it spreads through other public places (hint: it has something to do with shopping).

The question is whether H1N1 is a new virus known to man. Actually, it is not and it has been around since 1918. There are of course many variants of the swine flu – the H1N1 is more famous now.

Then there is this interesting story of the swine flu outbreak in 1976. The virus did not kill many but the act to vaccinate the population on the other did.

On the cold afternoon of February 5, 1976, an Army recruit told his drill instructor at Fort Dix that he felt tired and weak but not sick enough to see military medics or skip a big training hike.

Within 24 hours, 19-year-old Pvt. David Lewis of Ashley Falls, Mass., was dead, killed by an influenza not seen since the plague of 1918-19, which took 500,000 American lives and 20 million worldwide.

Two weeks after the recruit’s death, health officials disclosed to America that something called “swine flu” had killed Lewis and hospitalized four of his fellow soldiers at the Army base in Burlington County.


The 1976 incident was not the last. There was another outbreak in 1988, 1998 and 2007 before a major outbreak in 2009. Had mankind played ignorant when there have been several “warnings” before?

Back in Malaysia, the H1N1 outbreak sounds new but is it? We had our share of battling virus outbreaks before – starting from the “common” Denggi fever to the Nipah virus. In some cases, we have become more veterans than others. By now, standard preventative measures by right should have been part and parcel of our daily life.

So, I did not whether to feel amused when I read this in the papers:-

Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin said the local councils have been instructed to step up cleanliness at public areas especially toilets, tourists spots and hawker centres.

(From theStar)

Come on lah Lajim, whether we are facing H1N1 or not, isn’t having clean toilets, tourist spots and hawker centres should have been part of the standard preventative measure for any diseases. This is Malaysia, isn’t it? Why is it we always react reactively? If we had been proactive, I doubt that the H1N1 would have been spread to 80 people by now.

What’s next?

An outbreak of virus brought in by rats? We do have a large population of rats in a certain areas in KL and Selangor – a medical disaster just waiting to happen.

Read Also

H1N1 – Is the Government Serious?

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4 thoughts on “Health 101: The Deadly H1N1 Way Back In 1976”

  1. “The 1976 incident was not the last. There was another outbreak in 1988, 1998 and 2007 before major outbreak in 2009. Had mankind played ignorant when there has been several “warnings” before?”

    I guess it comes with the economic down cycles…haha.

  2. rumours are it that there are some pharmaceutical company releasing the virus so that their vaccine can sell.. since this virus are not that fatal once contracted…only in cases where the immune system of the contractee was already weak….rumours only

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