Int J Med Sci 2005; 2(2):87-90. doi:10.7150/ijms.2.87

Short Research Communication

An Avian Connection as a Catalyst to the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic

James E. Hollenbeck

Indiana University, 247 Life Science Building, New Albany, IN 47150, USA


The 1918 Influenza pandemic was one of the most virulent strains of influenza in history. This strain quickly dispatched previously held theories on influenza. World War One introduced new environmental stresses and speed of dissemination logistics never experienced by humans. In light of new phylogenic evidence the cause of this influenza outbreak is now being considered to have linkage to the avian influenza. Animals act as reservoirs for this influenza virus and research indicates the influenza virus often originates in the intestines of aquatic wildfowl. The virus is shed into the environment, which in turns infects domestic poultry, which in turn infects mammalian hosts. These animals, usually pigs, act as a transformer or converters; creating a strain that can more readily infect humans. Therefore swine can be infected with both avian and human influenza A viruses and serve as a source for infection for a number of species as the incidents of direct infection from birds to humans have been rare. Increased human habitation near poultry and swine raising facilities pose greater influenza outbreak risk. It was this combination of environmental factors that may have contributed to the greatest pandemic of recent times, and, moreover, similar conditions exist throughout Southeast Asia today.

Keywords: Influenza, pandemic, epidemiology, avian influenza, swine influenza, Spanish Influenza, vaccination

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How to cite this article:
Hollenbeck JE. An Avian Connection as a Catalyst to the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic. Int J Med Sci 2005; 2(2):87-90. doi:10.7150/ijms.2.87. Available from