“From Sailors To Swine” (not my title)

If pandemic influenza spread from sick-to-well by contact, then it should diffuse with reasonable rapidity over short distances.  Yet it does not seem to do so.  Could it be that somehow the organism that caused the epidemic was already present, but unrecognized, in various parts of the country?” –  Dr. Edwin Shope


Medical doctors of all stripes and physicians of all armed services (despite their so-called “Hippocratic Oath“) tried many times in many places, to conduct gruesome experiments on healthy Americans with the mucus, serum, and blood of those who were sick, or corpses of those who died, of the 1918 pandemic.  In the military, they offered blanket paroles to soldiers and sailors serving time in the stockades of America in WWI, to be test subjects.  Something that the law disallows today.

Scientists had noted, the so-called Spanish flu’s mortality rates in Fall, 1918 peaked in Boston and Bombay (India) in the same week.  But New York City, just a few hours from Boston, peaked three weeks later.

As one scientist, Dr. Richard Edwin Shope, noted years later:  “In many respects, the epidemiologist had an easier time getting the pandemic disease transferred from Boston to Chicago…than getting it the remaining 38 miles from Chicago to Joliet.  If pandemic influenza spread from sick-to-well by contact, then it should diffuse with reasonable rapidity over short distances.  Yet it does not seem to do so.  Could it be that somehow the organism that caused the epidemic was already present, but unrecognized, in various parts of the country?”

Dr. Shope was an Iowa farm boy born in Des Moines, who went to pre-medical school at the Iowa State when his first pick, Forestry, had closed down.  But he did not become a physician to practice medicine, rather to do scientific research at Princeton in The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 12.31.46 PM.pngAlways the public servant for The American People, Commander Shope during his career in The United States Navy.  He was known to be, “a sober yet brilliant scientist possessed of a wide knowledge, common sense, integrity, and complete sanity.”


He was sent back to Iowa by his PhD advisor to study a recent outbreak of cholera among hogs.  In Iowa, hog farms were huge affairs.  And hogs actually outnumbered people!  But what he found was completely unexpected and surprising.  He found hogs with the flu!  They had the sniffles, fevers, were teary-eyed, with runny noses.  Whole hogs farms were infected, and hogs were dying.   It turned out that since 1918, “swine flu” as it came to be known, occurred every year like clock-work before fading into the background.  Was this “similar” to the human version?

What he discovered through research, and years of study was that the so-called swine flu was a duplicate of the 1918 pandemic!  It became the first virus ever isolated from a mammal.  Dr. Shope was the scientist to do it in 1931.


 

 

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