[FOUNTAIN]Vaccinate before it’s too lateAlthough people’s concern about the common flu dropped a bit with the emergence of avian influenza, the original influenza is still a deadly disease. The Spanish flu that recorded the most deaths started in a U.S. barracks in France in the early summer of 1918. At first, it was scarcely noticed since there were hardly any symptoms. The first death was in August and, by then, the disease was already strongly contagious and fatal.
A month later, the Spanish flu crossed the ocean and spread in America. In just 15 days since the first patient was reported on September 12 in a barracks in Massachusetts, 12,604 soldiers had to be hospitalized. Soon after, 10 percent of the Boston population was infected and two-thirds of the infected died. Another month later, 20 percent of American citizens were infected. Among the dead, 24,000 were soldiers. Compared to the 34,000 casualties during World War I, that number was too high. However, this was also just a preview. The next spring in England alone, 150,000 people lost their lives. World-wide, approximately 21 to 25 million died, the highest casualties since the plaque.
A flu vaccine was developed after World War II, 150 years after Edward Jenner, the vaccine developer, developed a cowpox vaccine. Jenner’s cowpox vaccine’s roots are from China. Chinese herbal doctors in the 18th century used inoculation, transferring pus from those suffering from smallpox via a sharp needle to others. This inoculation spread throughout Europe through the writings of Mary Wortley Montagu, then wife of the British ambassador to China. When the number of people who died through inoculation increased, there were furious debates within America regarding this method.
Benjamin Franklin, who lost his son to smallpox, was a strong supporter of vaccination. He used data collected from a hospital in London to promote his thoughts. The hospital started vaccination in 1758 and had performed 1601 cases with only six deaths due to smallpox. During the same period, 3,856 suffered from small pox and 1,002 died. Franklin argued, “We should receive vaccination if one out of two cases are successful.” and continued, “We should not refuse to use the discovery God has given to humans as a blessing, but rather use it thankfully.”
The season of flu has come and the deadline for vaccination is mid-November. After this period, experts say it is hard to expect any great effect.
If you haven’t received a flu vaccination because you are busy with one thing or another, it would be best to hurry up, so you do not refuse the “blessing of God.”
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.