Ahead of the storm inexorably marching like a tidal wave of death lay quiet rows of beautiful homes. Inside were grandmothers and infants, photo albums and hamster cages, brand new pickups, and pop-up campers. Behind the storm lay shattered homes, shattered families, shattered lives, shattered bodies. What could be worse than that? To answer that question join me in Kansas at a military outpost called Camp Funston. It is March 4th, 1918 and the flu pandemic of 1918 begins. Tens of millions of deaths later, it was and remains a mystery.
It began with a relatively mild initial assault on March 4, when the first reported case occurred at Camp Funston, Kans. Within four months, the virus had traversed the globe. The flu sickened millions but killed relatively few, and in the tumult of World War I, the first wave seemed pretty mundane.
No one knew it at the time, of course, but flu viruses are notoriously unstable‚Äď "genetically labile," as one researcher puts it. Set one flu virus beside another, and the two may trade genes, a process called re-assortment. If this re-assortment produces a virus that closely resembles one of its parents, it is said to have undergone antigenic drift. On rare occasions, this scrambling can be dramatic. The virus becomes a kind of Frankenstein virus so different from existing strains that the human population has no immunity to it.
In August 1918, the mild virus apparently re-assorted into something positively deadly. Outbreaks caused by the new variant exploded almost simultaneously in three far-flung locations: France, Sierra Leone and Boston. The flu struck with a ferocity that shocked doctors, who feared this strange new pathogen might be a
Pastor John Barnett has been devouring the Word of God for over 30 years. John, now the teaching pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan has served congregations in Oklahoma, New England, Georgia and California. He also served on the Faculty of the Master's College...