Rational Wellness Podcast 036: The Spanish Flu Pandemic with Ken Rosen

Ken Rosen, author of 1919 The Search For Mankind’s Greatest Killer, speaks to Dr. Ben Weitz about the Spanish Influenza pandemic, why it was so deadly, and what we can do to prevent it.  We discussed the Spanish Flu of 1918 and 1919 which affected approximately 500 million people worldwide and killed between 50 and 100 million people, the greatest pandemic in mankind’s history.

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1:45 I asked Ken what made him decide to write a book about the Spanish Influenza. He explained that he was working as an executive producer for the National Hockey League and wondered why the Stanley Cup trophy was not given out in 1919 and started to research it.

3:42 I asked why this flu affected so many young, healthy folks, as opposed to most flus that mostly affect the old and the young, who have the weakest immune systems? And why was this flu so severe and why did it kill so many people? Ken explained that they did not even know what was wrong with most of these people and they did not have the medical techniques that we have today. Now, looking back, we understand that it was an avian flu and if you look back at history every 100 years or so, this avian flu mutates and creates some kid of epidemic or pandemic. We think that medical science has now reached a level where we think we could control or stop it, but we don’t really know, and we are due for such an epidemic. 

5:20 I asked why bird flu is so unusual and I pointed out that birds are an incredible vector for spreading the flu across the globe. Ken explained how in his book, which is based on real characters and based on history, that Dr. Taubenberger worked with a Russian doctor and they figured out that this flu started in Siberia, which is one of the places that most of the major bird routes originate because of the food and the space. A bird flu is the perfect bioweapon because of how the birds can spread it across the globe by passing it to local birds wherever they migrate through.  The only spot where this flu never reached was New Zealand, because none of the major bird routes pass over or stop at that island. Initially experts thought it was a swine flu but after studying the remains frozen in permafrost 100 years later, Dr. Taubenberger figured out it was a bird flu rather than a swine flu.

9:40 I commented that it is interesting that you have such a devastating flu and then it just ends. Ken explained that it just burned itself out. He pointed out that once it became so destructive that people became sick so fast, that the virus was not really passed from person to person very effectively. People just got very sick and died fairly quickly. Also governments figured out that this virus was airborne so all social life was shut down. Churches, schools, ballgames, etc. were all closed, which stopped the spread. This flu helped to stop World War I since so many troops on both sides were being carted away due to being sick, which led to the discussions over the proposed Versailles treaty where they were trying to end the war. The Versailles treaty was the worst treaty ever put together, according to Ken, since it led to World War II since Germany couldn’t handle all the war reparations. So this virus that only really lasted a few short bursts in 1918 and 1919 had an impact on the world for the next century.

12:00 I asked again why this flu killed so many young healthy, since it is usually infants, the old, and those who are immuno-compromised who are tend to die from the flu?  Ken said that they didn’t really know why. 

You can get Ken Rosen’s book through his website, http://www.1919mankind.com/ or through Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/1919-Search-Mankind%C2%92s-Greatest-Killer/dp/1543449794  

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations and he specializes in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure by calling the office 310-395-3111.

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