Bird Flu Personal Stories: Why Pernel cares …

Many people have written to me and asked why I have such an interest in the bird flu.  So, I thought I would answer all of the responses in one response.   

My father was born in Belgium in 1906.  When the Spanish flu came through in 1918-1919, (see Note 1) he came down with the flu and so did his brothers and sisters.  My grandmother called the Dr. as she was in terror of losing her family again.  Previously, she had lost all of her first 6 children to the plague.  The Dr. arrived and told my grandmother that he would be back in the morning.  Upon returning as promised in the morning, he asked my grandmother what time the children had died.  She informed him that the children were all still alive.  The Dr. was totally shocked that they had survived the Spanish flu.   

My father talked a lot about this devastating flu.  He told us that when he was well from his bout of sickness, he walked around to help others. He remembered seeing all the dead bodies in the street.  My father said that people were sick and dying everywhere.  It was further added that he had never been so sick in his entire life.  This flu felt like as if his body was being ripped apart and he desired to die to end the torment.  He said when it was all over with for the family, they prayed very hard for the people who were still getting sick and dying.  He use to say that he hoped this devastating flu would never return since it left a scar on his heart that would never heal.   

Next, the Asian Flu (see Note 2) hit my residential area in about 1957-58.  I was one of the unfortunate people to come down with this flu.  I can remember lying in bed and crying as I hurt so badly.  I couldn’t tell where I hurt the most, everything hurt.  My father snuck me a Hershey bar and even as precious as a candy bar was to a house of 16 children, I never got to eat it because the feverish heat from my body melted it.  I don’t remember a lot about this Asian flu. I just know I prayed a lot and cried a lot.  I couldn’t keep anything down and really didn’t want anything but cool water which stayed down for seconds.  I remember when the fever broke which allowed me to finally come back consciously into the real world.  I tried to get up on my elbows to look around but I was so physically weak. I could not rise up out of the bed.   

Then in 1968, I came down with the Hong Kong Flu (see Note 3).  My fever was so high that my family rushed me to the hospital.  The Drs. sent me back home and told them if I lived through the night that I would make it. I felt so sick.  I was freezing and so hot at the same time that I couldn’t stand it.  I wasn’t able to eat or drink.  The hospital was so full of people needing help and no beds were left.  At home, I laid on the floor, covered up with every blanket I could find and hallucinated throughout the night.  The severe fever broke on the third day.  Due to the exhaustion, it took a couple additional days before I could move around and even get up into a sitting position.  This flu drained me totally.   

Having been personally through two pandemic flu outbreaks and surviving them, it has left me with the knowledge of what they are capable of.  I remember the stories my father told of the Spanish flu about the damage it did to his town and the people in Europe.  Some things you never forget and the emotional pain in my father’s eyes when he spoke of it told more than the stories themselves.  I could not imagine the horror he went through when he spoke of losing friends and family and the people being so lost and desperate.  He talked of how the constant screams of despair could be heard through the night.   

Now I am a mother with a 13 year old and 15 year old still at home.  I also have 3 adult children, 13 grandchildren and many other people in my life that I love and care about.  You bet that this bird flu is on my priority list of things to watch very carefully.  I never want my children to go through what I did or what my father experienced.  They are the reasons that I monitor this current avian flu very carefully. How I do this is by watching the developments, use the knowledge of the past along with what is happening now to try and stay on top of it.  I know that there is nowhere to hide from a super flu.  No one can escape it but we can sure fight it every way we can.  People have survived it once, we can do it again though we need to be prepared, ready and understand that it will not be an easy battle to win.  Also, in one way or another it will touch every one of us.    

  Note 1: The 1918 flu pandemic, commonly referred to as the Spanish flu, was a category 5 influenza pandemic caused by an unusually severe and deadly Influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1. Many of its victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or otherwise weakened patients.  The Spanish flu pandemic lasted from 1918 to 1919. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people[1] while current estimates say 50 million to 100 million people worldwide were killed.[2] This pandemic has been described as “the greatest medical holocaust in history” and may have killed as many people as the Black Death.[3]

Note 2: The “Asian Flu” was a category 2 flu pandemic outbreak of avian influenza that originated in China in early 1956 lasting until 1958. It originated from mutation in wild ducks combining with a pre-existing human strain.[3] The virus was first identified in Guizhou.[4] It spread to Singapore in February 1957, reached Hong Kong by April, and US by June. Death toll in the US was approximately 69,800.[3] Estimates of worldwide infection rate varies widely depending on source, ranging from 1 million to 4 million.

Note 3: The Hong Kong Flu was a category 2 flu pandemic caused by a strain of H3N2 descended from H2N2 by antigenic shift, in which genes from multiple subtypes reassorted to form a new virus. The Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 and 1969 infected an estimate 500,000 with a low death rate[2][3]. In the US, 50 million were infected with an estimated 33,000 deaths[4].

Both the H2N2 and H3N2 pandemic flu strains contained genes from avian influenza viruses. The new subtypes arose in pigs coinfected with avian and human viruses and were soon transferred to humans. Swine were considered the original “intermediate host” for influenza, because they supported reassortment of divergent subtypes. However, other hosts appear capable of similar coinfection (e.g., many poultry species), and direct transmission of avian viruses to humans is possible. H1N1 may have been transmitted directly from birds to humans (Belshe 2005). [5] The Hong Kong flu strain shared internal genes and the neuraminidase with the 1957 Asian Flu (H2N2). Accumulated antibodies to the neuraminidase or internal proteins may have resulted in much fewer casualties than most pandemics.    

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5 Responses to “Bird Flu Personal Stories: Why Pernel cares …”

  1. Astral City » Bird Flu Personal Stories: Why Pernel cares … Says:

    […] the rest of this post at psychicinsights. We only show small snippits! Related posts:Pernel’s Thoughts regarding Bird Flu August 31, […]

  2. Holliegh Says:

    Very touching. Sorrow is a hard memory 2 4get.

  3. Lorian99 Says:

    This is a beautiful story and very sad. It touched my heart and I have thought about it a lot since the first time I read it. Thanks Pernel for sharing a part of your life with us because it has helped me to think a lot about what may come.

  4. Joanne McCrory Says:

    Where was the bubonic plague you’re grandmother spoke of ?
    The only reference European history mentions was back in the 1500’s, carried by rats.

  5. psychicinsights Says:

    1855- 1889: A major pandemic, known as the Third Pandemic, begins in China and spreads throughout the world, with China and India affected the most. Overall, this pandemic brings death to more than 12 million people

    http://www.twoop.com/medicine/archives/2005/10/bubonic_plague.html

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