tv Reel America We Heard the Bells The Influenza of 1918 CSPAN March 30, 2019 8:01am-9:01am EDT
department, this documentary includes flu survivors telling stories, a look at the science of the flu and a look of the strainc and the 1918 extracted from frozen bodies under an alaskan from a forest -- permafrost. >> in 1918, i lived in sequoyah county. >> in 1918, my family was living in south philadelphia. >> we were living in el paso, texas. >> i was born and raised in baltimore. >> in bustling cities and remote villages in the united states and around the world, orphan children cry for their parents in 1918. people of all cultures struggled with the same terrible threat, and with it, in a matter of months, as much as 50 million
would be dead. in the united states, the death toll reached 675,000, five times the number of u.s. soldiers killed in world war i. what was that deadly threat? [bell tolls] ♪ [bell tolls] >> many people died. we had just come from a few years before from mexico, where we were living. on account of the mexican revolution.
i was the oldest, about 10 years old. my four brothers and sisters of the family, only my dad and my sister did not get it. my two brothers were in one room sick, i was sick in the other bedroom with my mother. my poor dad and sister had to be our attendance and do what they could do for us. influenza gave you such high fever. mother told me that i thought her black hair was a cat and i was afraid it was the delirium from the high fever. people are left very weak. public schools and public places closed. i guess for nearly two or three weeks. ♪
>> i was eight years old. we lived near my dad's mother. she and her daughter and two grandchildren were living close to us. when they got the flu and got sick, my parents, we just moved in with them to where my mother could nurse them and take care of them. at that time, my mother was 25 years old. she had three children. she was expecting another baby in may. this was in february. she had taken care of eight patients, at one time, very sick patients with the flu, with no convenience, no modern facilities whatsoever. mother had to get the wood to keep heat in the house to keep all of the fires going, plus to
-- do the nursing care with a patient's. ♪ >> my father always went by "good morning", that was his indian name. he was working in tennessee for a dupont company. anytime anybody was sick, he would always bring up the story about how he got sick while he was in tennessee and how a lot of people from the village that had gone were brought back sick. they were brought back in a train. he said some of them had passed away in tennessee. in 1918, my mother was just 11 years old, but she remembers the lift on the south side of the village. she remembers that church bell
would ring every day. there is a certain bell for the death. she said she remembers as a little girl how awful it sounded. [bell tolls] >> in 1918, as now, most people didn't think of influenza as a disease that could lead to death. we suffered through the flu season every winter. in the u.s., the flu season usually peaks between january and the end of march. >> the symptoms of a cold are usually running nose, sometimes low-grade fever and just feeling a little wiped out. influenza is much more pronounced than that. people will generally have a high grade fever, absolutely no energy whatsoever, muscle aches, headaches, fairly dry cough. with a common cold, you may feel bad for a couple of days. with influenza, it is sometimes
two weeks or more. really severe can cause pneumonia. >> complications from the flu caused an average of more than 200,000 hospitalizations every year in the u.s. and an average 36,000 people die from the complications. >> during seasonal influenza epidemics in the united states, there are certain groups that that are higher risk for complications. young children, in particular those less than two years of age, elderly people, particularly 65 and older, persons of any age who may have certain underlying chronic conditions, asthma, chronic lung disease, chronic cardiovascular disease. in addition, pregnant women are at higher risk for complications from seasonal influenza. >> while seasonal influenza is a serious health threat for people at risk of complications, the outbreak of influenza that swept the nation in 1918 and early 1919 killed over half a million
people in the u.s. when the population was only one third of what it is today. ♪ >> i was four years old at the time. i was living at the ranch. my mother was the midwife and she tended to the people, delivery of babies and all that kind of thing. she used to take me with her to go and visit the new mothers. i love to go see the new babies. i cried because at the time, she didn't want to take me with her because she was tending to the dying. the miracle about it is that she didn't get it. according to her, none of us did either. she would tell me about how people died and they had no funeral services or anything like that.
they would just carry them off to bury them. it was very hard for them to keep up burying the dead because they were dying so fast. the one thing that stayed in my mind because i used to hear it even later with the sounding of the nailing of boards together, making boxes. coffins for the people. >> where people called it pe, or the the grip spanish flu, it was clear this was not the flu that comes every winter. today, we know that influenza is caused by a virus. we know that the virus spreads from one person to another through droplets when people cough and sneeze or through contact with a virus on someone's hand or a contaminated surface. in 1918, no one knew what caused it, where it started or how to
stop it. >> they were scared because it happened so rapidly. they didn't know what was going on, what was happening. >> there were a few communities in the u.s., small or isolated that they were sheltered from the ways of deadly disease that spread around the world. the influenza of 1918 even touched remote villages in alaska, sometimes killing every man, woman and child, or killing the adults and leaving the children with no one to care for them. the 1918 influenza struck some native peoples in the southwest very hard, too. >> i don't think the doctor resided here, but he came from albuquerque. a lot of our people, older people that didn't speak the english language. my dad would interpret for him. they would work from early
morning until late night trying to visit every home in the pueblo. in the morning, when they got to some of the homes, they would find maybe two or three people in the family that had passed away during the night. every day, they were burying people, the church bell would be tolling from morning till evening as of so many deaths. [bell tolls] >> the bureau of indian affairs sent a doctor to investigate the situation in the pueblos near albuquerque, new mexico. he wrote, the strength of the pueblos was not taken with the aged or infants, but from the young adult life of the tribe. this was true around the world. with the influenza that hits us every fall and winter, most healthy adults are sick for a week or two and recover.
when people die of the flu, it's almost always the very young and the very old. but the influenza of 1918 was not only much more lethal than seasonal flu, the death rate was very high among young adults. strong young men and women working to support and care for their family. my parents came from romania. my family was living in south philadelphia. i think it was a neighbor of immigrants. my mother and father and my two sisters all have the flu. it was a very sad. when you looked outcome you saw hardly anybody walking around. people stayed in their houses because they were afraid. they said if it killed you, it did it fast.
i remember them telling me they saw a man coming home from work and the next afternoon they saw him carried out. he died. >> of all the cities in the u.s., philadelphia have one of the highest rates of sickness and death. the city resisted putting measures in place that might have limited the spread of the flu. measures such as prohibiting public gatherings where the flu could spread easily. the city allowed a large gray to take place for the troops marching in world war i. although the crowd wore masks, many people caught the flu from those who were already infected. baltimore fared almost as badly as philadelphia. soldiers at camp meade, south of the city became sick in mid-september. by early october, there were 2000 cases in baltimore.
officials hesitated to close schools and other meeting places, which would have reduced contact between the sick and the well. hospitals and funeral homes were overwhelmed. the workers who kept the city and its businesses running were too sick to get out of bed. >> we got all of these men from down south and they were just thousands of men coming out of the mills. my father worked for the steel companies. the only black baker they ever had was my father. people were very kind to one another and it was a place everybody looked after one another. the people who work in the steel died in the people around them didn't even know they were dead. don't know how long he had been dead. they went to work.
they would leave in the morning and he was dead in the evening. my mother was sick and everything. they quarantined us. we didn't visit nobody and nobody visited us accept this lady. she went around helping everybody who was sick. she never got sick or anything. >> back in 1918, i was between 10 and 12 years old. i got the flu and it was just my mother and i. my friends we went to elementary school together and both of them were stricken with the flu. i would go out to the hospital to go visit her. they are out on the porch in the cold wintertime and they had blankets and a hood on, but she died. both of them died. people didn't understand.
there was no vaccine, but your parents did the best they could for you. >> the influenza of 1918-1919, was a pandemic an outbreak of disease around the world which caused serious illness and death. why was the influenza of 1918 so much more deadly than the seasonal flu we experience every winter? what was different about the influenza virus in 1918? >> the seasonal influenza viruses that cause annual outbreaks, epidemics in the united states during our fall, winter and early spring, those are influenza viruses that are circulating among people worldwide. they are evolving and changing just a little bit, but they are human viruses. some percentage of the u.s. population and the world's population gets infected every year. some become ill. some percent recover from a self-limited illness.
all of these people who survive will have some immunity. all other people get vaccinated and we received some and unity through that vaccine. there are two ways to acquire immune protection. one is through natural infection, in which he recover in survive. the other is vaccination. vaccination helps our bodies to produce antibodies against strains in the vaccine. the influenza pandemic is different. it is the emergence of a very new influenza a virus to which most of the population has not previously been exposed and is not have any immunity. no immune protection. what you see is very high numbers, very high percentage of people becoming sick whirlwind.
-- worldwide. >> in the last 100 years, new influenza viruses have caused four pandemics in 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009. >> ultimately, they come from birds, while waterfowl's, geese and ducks. they can get into domestic poultry, chickens. they can also get into human beings directly, pigs, various aquatic mammals, horses, dogs and cats. they can take any of these and in theory, and that getting into people by either coming directly from a bird or going through a circuitous route in another animal. >> by a variety of mutations that occur for a number of reasons, these types of viruses can, under certain circumstances about themselves to other species. as they propagate themselves in these other species, they adapt themselves better to spread from
pig to pig or bird to burn or person to person. the host we worry about the most is the human species. >> one of my dad's sisters lived pretty close to us. she had a family of four children and her husband and she was expecting. she had taken the flu, and of course she passed away. she was very sick. the ladies that used to take the flu and were pregnant all died. and my mother didn't get it. >> we don't know what you women -- pregnant women died of influenza at a high rate, but it has been documented for over 500 years. whatever the reason, it is pretty clear that pregnant women in 1918 or very high risk. pregnant women are going to be in the younger age ranges. but not pregnant women and men in those age ranges were also at risk.
in any flu pandemic, people die from pneumonia, but it tends to the older folks, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women, infants and so on. this time, in 1918, something very different hapened. otherwise healthy young adults constituted a fairly large percentage of the deaths. why that happened is a mystery. ♪ >> brevig, alaska is northwest of nome, alaska, just on the bering sea. the fact that it exists today is remarkable because of the 80 residents in 1918, only five adults and three children survived the flu pandemic. over 50 years ago, a young men with an interest in viruses found his way to the village.
>> was a medical student in sweden. i just thought i would travel to the united states and get a masters degree in biology. one thing led to the next and i decided to go for my phd. one day, we had a visitor. i remember his talking about everything that had been done to find out what was it that caused the 1918 flu. at the end of his comment, he said somebody ought to go to the northern part of the world and try to find a victim of the 1918 spanish flu pandemic buried in the permafrost. that victim is likely to have been made frozen since 1918. at that time, it has been 40 years.
in the 15 seconds, i happened to be there. immediately, i went to my faculty advisor to ask, could that be a subject for my thesis? i happen to have worked during the summer of 1949 for a paleontologist in alaska. >> the paleontologist at work on the peninsula and knew the missionaries in the villages there. with his help, he was able to review records from the following 1918. -- fall of 1918. he found that the military had very good records showing the location and thickness of the permafrost in alaska. >> the basis of that came to be decided on three villages. i showed up in june. i went to the first village called nome, a rather large city.
went into the mass grave at the cemetery and discovered that the river that normally have flowed on the side of the village some distance away had changed course since 1918 and have come into the village and melted this permafrost. you could see it. then, i engaged in bush pilot to fly me to another village at the bering strait. i found out where the mass grave was, clearly marked with a large cross. i figured there was no permafrost here. the bush pilot flew me to another place. there was no way to land. i had to land at the beach some distance away in another village, and then i had to cross the border with a whaleboat.
i had to walk about six miles in soggy tundra that was just beginning to melt. they had a village counselor of the elders. the oldest woman of the largest family makes decisions were heavily influences decisions. little did i know that that was going to be very important later on. fortunately for me, there were three survivors of the 1918 pandemic. i asked him to please tell the other members what it was like in that november week when 90% of the village died. then i said, if you allow me to enter the grave and if i'm fortunate enough to find the
right specimen, i will take it back my laboratory, and if everything works out well, it will be possible for us to develop a vaccine. when the next pandemic comes, we will have a vaccine to immunize and protect you. they understood what that scene was because they had been immunized against smallpox. the matriarch was in favor about that. that influenced the decision, so they allowed me to open the grave. i went out on the grave site and started to dig. about a foot down, i came onto permafrost. i started the fire, climbed up on the bluff, and there was a mass grave. i started to melt the
permafrost. on the end of the second day i came down about four feet, and there i found the first victim, a young child, a girl, estimated 12 years of age. the condition of her body at four feet from the surface was so good that i was confident that down deeper they would be even better preserved adults and so on. 72 bodies in the grave. i didn't come alone to alaska, i had my faculty advisor, influenza biologist. i had a pathologist, one of the professors in the department in iowa to perform the postmortem examinations. i was out ahead of them to scout the grave and test. a day later, they came to the same beach where i had landed earlier.
we traveled the same way back to brevig. about three days later, we were down six feet and then we found three perfectly preserved bodies the postmortem found them and their lungs were perfectly preserved. we thanked the villages, closed the grave, and i took pictures. i started to try to grow the virus trying to find a live influenza virus. week after week after week i got more and more discouraged. eventually, i had no more specimens. the virus was dead. and there went to my phd. i could see it fly out the
window in a non-air-conditioned office. i decided to go back to sweden to continue my medical education. i was extremely fortunate as offered to continue medical school in iowa. i got my md there, became a pathologist. back of my mind, i have this memory of not getting my phd and all of the effort that went into that and it just collapsed. >> pathologist use the tools of molecular biology and genetics to make diagnoses and provide insight into patient care decisions. did you make diagnoses of infectious diseases by looking for the genetic material of the infectious organism, the virus or bacteria. i was in the national cancer institute at the pathologist in the 1980's. in 1993, i moved to the armed
forces to set up a new group dedicated to pathology. one of the things we have to do for both sides of that was to work out ways to recover genetical material from typical biopsy material. they have a huge collection of millions of tissue samples reflecting all aspects of clinical disease to emerging infectious disease, including autopsies of soldiers who died of flu in 1918. i wanted to think of a project that would highlight the utility of having such an old archive as well as our new molecular techniques. the way those things came together in my mind was to go after the 1918 flu. without it might be possible to go after fragments of the genetic material of the virus still preserved in autopsy tissues.
there were two fundamental questions we wanted to answer. one, why was this virus so berland? virlent?ent -- >> where did this virus come from? howanted to understand pandemic form. these tissues were old and it was not clear we could discover any genetic material at all from these examples. we had to work out techniques and continue to refine techniques to extract nucleic acids from these samples. we had started this project in 1995 and it took over a year to find a positive case to work out our techniques to make sure we could find influence of. once we found the first positive case and started to generate frequent and can spirit -- compare it to known influenza viruses, we were convinced we
found that 1918 virus. we were concerned that would be an adequate amounts of material available to sequence the virus from that material. in march 1997, there it was. 1918 pandemic virus was found. the sequence had been discovered. specimens, lete me know and i will go back to alaska. i know where it is. i can go back. i did not hear anything and i .hought, well he happened to be on vacation so he did not get mail. >> we were excited about the possibility. we hoped if we could recover material from frozen victims, the quality of the virus might be improved. >> he called me here and said to
my when can you go? >> i said i could go next week. time, when i come the second visit in 1997, it was in august. it was time to dig in the permafrost. he knew of the excavation i had carried out in 1951. he also knew i had to get permission to do it again so he said it was difficult, you may not be able to get permission this time. you to rita.uce in 1997. matriarch little did i know her
grandmother was jamie. it would never have happened otherwise. >> dr. holden presented his case to the graphic village council including rita. he made sure they understood the virus was dead and could not cause disease. >> i told them how important it --because your precipitation participation, if you are part of the team, i am a specimen is are the three but it begins with you. i got permission to go. no one wants to go in a grave and dig dead bodies so i will do it myself.
and so one of the members said, would you like to have help? assigned by the -- ige council to help me knew where the grave was so i marked it off. at the end of the first day, we were down four feet and i did not see anything at all. then five feet. i noticed somebody's at seven feet. next to the skeleton was a woman. and perfectly preserved with clothing had fallen off, but i could see the skin and it was an obese woman. off andhe rib cage
there exposed the lungs. picture of textbook acuteon who had died from pneumonitis. exactly what i needed. and that inside. that had protected the youngs -- lungs from the location of the permafrost that had reached seven feet down. not that much food around. to find one was remarkable. who had a goodan husband, but all this food for her. then i decided i have got to
make new crosses to show my gratitude to the village. i had photographs of the original crosses. i finished my work on the crosses and by 8:00 the next morning, they helped me put the crosses in. an hour later, the bush pilot landed and that i got all my specimens all bart -- on board. were thevantage we had autopsies were tiny, the size of a fingernail so they were limiting. he was able to provide a large sections of an entire long -- lung. we had so much more material to clear.th, it became weeksigured it would take before we had specimens.
10 days later he called and said, we have it. the specimen is good. great material and this is going to be wonderful. finally, in 1997, there it is. , without the eskimos, nothing would've come. >> the effort to sequence the entire genome of the 1918 virus took years. it was a laborious process. >> thousands of genetic information that had to be put together as a total. the sequence, the stretch of a gene, so he has a looking at it
here, and it was fully built. is this pace in this and here? is it this way? is it here? what comes to the left and the right? day after day, month after month, putting these things together, year after year. 14,000 plus pieces had to be put in their proper place. it is incredible. >> it is clearly a virus that was human adaptive. but genetically, it is very birdlike in its sequence, very avian-like. it is an avian like influenza virus that somehow adopted to humans. we now know there are number of mutations in several of the genes that are crucial in the adaptation to humans. you could imagine using these mutations as a screening tool to
assess the significance of bird strain as to whether it was actually moving along the path that would make it a depth to humans. if we identify changes that were crucial to allow a bird virus to replicate in humans, you could design drugs that might lock or bind to that particular change to prevent a bird virus from actually functioning in humans. the 1918 flu had as its most unique feature of fact that it had a high propensity to kill young adults, even having the entire sequence in front of us, we do not yet understand why it behaved in a manner. people in the particular age group might have had the wrong sort of immunity to the 1918 virus, some kind of immune response that actually made them more susceptible to die. people older than about age 45 or 50 in 1818, there might have been in them a pre-existing immunity to viruses similar to the 1918 virus.
we are trying to identify -- fromto the 18 virus before the 1918 virus to help us identify this. >> one woman, and read, very accomplished, she was sent up to present a plaque to the village council. the work of bringing of antiviral drugs, good vaccines, saving hundreds of millions of lives, it began with rita olana and jenny olana. >> another question about the 1918 epidemic is how people died after being sick with the flu. the doctors not only examined tissues in the collection, but also people around the world who
had died from the epidemic. >> we found that the vast majority of people died because of secondary bacterial pneumonia. what we think happened is the influenza caused such an extensive inflammatory response in the lungs, it caused such tissue damage that the virus spread into the lungs and caused disease that would ultimately kill the person. the evidence of the bacterial pneumonia i think helps explain why you had such mortality in military camps particularly. well this is important in understanding what happened in 1918, it also has significant implications for pandemic planning in the future. >> we have really seen an explosion in information in the last 10 years or so because primarily of the sequencing of the 1918 virus.
but also the unusual evidence of the bird flu virus. >> we have been watching the virus for over 10 years now. these viruses are highly transmissible from bird to bird and they can destroy a flock of birds. but the most important thing from a public health perspective is that humans who have very close contact with the infected birds occasionally can become infected by this virus. over 60% of those who have come infected have died. many more people have in exposed to the virus than have become infected. in order for theirs avian influenza virus to cause a pandemic, we would have to see a number of changes occur in the
virus so that the virus can be transmitted easily from human to human to human. the fact that the avian influenza viruses we were monitoring so closely had been circulating for 10 years and still haven't caused a pandemic doesn't mean these viruses will not cause a pandemic. we don't know for past pandemics, how long does viruses actually circulated, caused infections in humans and then gained the ability to be transmitted efficiently. we don't know enough about past history to predict the future. >> i think the biggest lesson is that we can predict what -- cannot predict what influenza will do. >> as scientists continue to look for answers in the 1918 flu virus, we can also learn from the men and women who responded
to the health crises by taking it upon themselves to care for their relatives, their neighbors, and their communities. this doctor was a physician with the public health service in el paso, texas. he wrote to a colleague serving at an army field hospital in france. >> we have all been busy with the flu. i meet on an average 30 calls a day for a month, everyone else did as much or more. the public health service and the red cross opened a hospital where we treated the mexican part of town. the epidemic here was fierce. he had about 10,000 cases in el paso. whole families were exterminated. the white population fared almost as badly. that was three days behind in my calls. the other doctors all had the same experience, of course. >> when the other people living in the other parts of el paso learned of the many deaths in the southern part of the city, they volunteered to use their cars as ambulances.
when a school was turned into a hospital for flu patients, el pasoers from all over volunteered as nurses, divers and clerks. >> you see, we have been serving our country right here at home. >> that epidemic made the committee to get together because everybody gave the help, whatever the people needed. that helps the community, both juarez and here. >> there was a shortage of doctors and nurses during the 1918 influenza pandemic because so many of them were serving in the war effort. so you had a mixture of both trained medical personnel and
those with some training, those who basically were very cynically minded individuals who wanted to dissipate and tend to best ending to the ill. those women who volunteered or literally putting themselves on the line, stepping into a deadly endemic because they believed it was their calling and they wanted to do what they believed on wanted to do what they was her duty.r i would say that the activities of volunteers, and particularly women volunteers was crucial. in this is a story of unsung heroes, of forgotten people who really rose to the gravity of the moment. >> in villages in alaska, the whole village would become sick at once. there would be nobody to provide food, shelter. these things can make a difference. in the end, wealthy nations like the united states, the conclusion at the end of 1918, 1919 was about the single most important thing that could save
your life from flu was good nursing care, not medicine, not doctors, not hospitals, but good nursing care. when he first read those things, you are likely to say, that can't be true, what could they do in those days? what is chicken soup or a blanket going to do? i think the data is strong. some of the best physicians, nurses and others said again and again and again, good nursing care. >> even though nobody knew what caused influenza in 1918 some communities took steps to prevent the spread of the disease. >> in our group we have been looking at 43 strains of the pandemic to see exactly what they did to stave off the epidemic or what they didn't do for that matter. and what were their records. we find that those who acted very early, with a suite of classical public health interventions -- quarantine, closing schools, banning public
gatherings, if they acted very soon, kept to these measures on for a long time and a used more than one of these measures at the same time, those cities had a much better record in terms of cases and deaths, than those who did not. there is a mountain of stuff we are learning from the 1918 of pandemics that applies to people today or in the near and distant future. >> we have learned from the experiences in the 1918, 1919 epidemic. but that is only one of the factors that helps us better prepared to deal with the influenza pandemic. >> you are extraordinary advantages. some of them pretty simple, like experience of what seemed to work in some cities like social distancing, avoiding crowded places, things that weren't necessarily fully appreciated that some cities did and did
well. most importantly, we have biomedical, health care and technological advances we did not have. we didn't have vaccines then for flu. we didn't even know what a micro was. many people thought it was a strange form of a bacteria and not necessarily a virus. we also have antiviral drugs such as tamiflu, we didn't have been. we have antibiotics to treat the secondary complications, the bacterial complications of influenza. we have much better technologies to treat seriously ill individuals like efficient, good respirators, intensive care units, acute care medicine, all things we didn't have back then, we have them now. >> our parents or grandparents had little warning or chance to prepare. we know now that influenza has caused pandemics at intervals
for at least the last 500 years. public health officials have been preparing for the next flu pandemic, knowing that it could be a mild pandemic as in 1968, or as severe, as in 1918. the world is watching a new pandemic flu virus. the novel h1n1 flu virus, which emerged in the spring of 2009. >> we know that the new 2009 h1n1 virus is in almost every country of the world already. fortunately, so far, the 2009 h1n1 virus is in a future have that level of severity that the 1918 one had. the h1n1 virus is affecting people differently. the illnesses are most common in young people, children and young adults. but we are also seeing hospitalizations and deaths, in particular in people who have conditions that increase their
risk of implication. pregnant women have really been heavily hit with a virus. reports around the world and the united states for just about native populations may have a higher risk of severe illness caused by the 2009 h1n1 strain. we went to be ready and make sure these populations are served and have good access to health care and to vaccination. >> everyone has the experience throughout the world that the best way to contain influenza is by getting a very efficient and safe vaccine. vaccines, given the current technology, and even in more modern technology, you don't make a vaccine overnight, you have to first find out what the virus is you are dealing with and then go through a multi-step process in order to get enough vaccine to protect the population. that multi step process generally takes several months, along the line of six or more months.
>> vaccination is an important response to the h1n1 virus. but we have a whole series of efforts. >> public health officials are fighting the spread of influenza with the hygiene we learned her children. stay home when you are sick, or wash hands frequently with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, practice cough and sneeze etiquette and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. >> at the start of a pandemic that is a most efficient tool you have in addition to social distancing, staying home when you are sick and so on. we are a community that hugs, that shakes, that has elevators you need to ride on to go to different parts of a building. we go grocery shopping and we need to push our carts. everything to do, you basically have to touch something that other people touch.
so handwashing will be very critical. >> these good habits and vaccinations also preventing the spread of seasonal flu. annual immunization for the seasonal flu helps people stay healthy and helps health workers prepare to vaccinate the population during a pandemic. >> these immunizations are widely available every year. it is very important for people, especially those 65 and over to take influenza vaccinations. it is important to have the vaccine every year. and it is a covered medicare benefit. there is absolutely no way you will get the flu from the flu shot. >> based on what i know and what i have been observing with the h1n1 virus, the risk of getting influenza or having a complication is much higher than any theoretical risk from the
vaccine. it is important for people to know that not getting vaccinated also puts you at risk. 100 million people get influenza vaccine every year in the united states. they have a strong safety track record. the 2009 h1n1 vaccines are being made the exact same way the seasonal vaccines are being made. >> a long-term goal for scientists working on a vaccine is to develop a vaccine that would create against all seasonal and pandemic influenza. >> we refer to it as a universal influence vaccine. i don't think you will be easy to do. what we are working on, the scientists in the field, is to identify the components of all influenza viruses that don't change as the virus drifts or even shifts, then you have to put that in what we call an immunogenic form, mainly a form
that if you injected into a person or spray it into the nose of a person, that person will make an immune response that is very robust. there are lots of people working on this, it is a high-priority project. >> every year we have fewer elders to remind us of the terrible time they, their families and their communities endured in 1918 and 1919. but we need to keep those memories alive. >> i think the important lesson is that pandemics can be very serious. but also, pandemics can be widespread but not that serious. there is a gradation of severity of pandemics. you always must prepare for the worst case scenario. even though you might have a mild pandemic like occurred in 1968, or an intermediate
pandemic like in 1957. >> the current pandemic is less severe so far than the planning scenarios most of us have had. that could be that it becomes less severe and that does not affect a lot of people. it could be that it mutates into a deadlier virus, which would be difficult and terrible to manage. and it could be that it continues the way it has been so far. only time will tell. we have to be ready to give up and respond differently if the virus changes. >> the one thing you can predict about influenza is that it is unpredictable. >> we still know much less than we'd like about influenza. by the experiences of the individuals who endured the pandemic of 1918 and the research into that pandemic contribute to our understanding of the disease. >> we are infinitely better prepared now than we were at 100 years ago in the beginning of the 20th century.
announcer: this weekend, world war ii navajo code talkers and a look back at the nuclear power accident. today at 2:00 p.m. on oral history, the first of six interviews with former navajo code talkers who served in the marine corps and used the native was to make it operational plans. us, that navajo code talkers compelled to use the land, which they devised and -- they played a role, a
unique role which they are can -- which was confusing to the enemy. the 40th anniversary of the three mile island nuclear power plant accident near harrisburg, pennsylvania. consider the most serious in the united states. .ome to look at the program and at 4:00 p.m. on real america reel america, watch. >> stay indoors with your windows closed. people of middletown tell a pennsylvania lived in fear of an enemy they could not see, hear, or feel. >> watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. >> next on american history tv,
jerry mitchell talks about his 30 year career with the jackson, mississippi "clarion ledger." he describes how he put four klansmen in jail in the 1960's. american university investigative reporting workshop like alumni alliance and school of communications cohosted the cement -- this event. it is over an hour. charles: good evening. my name is charles lewis, professor and executive editor of the investigative reporting workshop. welcome to the american university school. this important event tonight is cosponsored by the au school of communication, investigative workshop and black alumni alliance.