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comment by kleinbl00

    However, the CDC and other authoritative sources report that the influenza epidemic actually began in the US spreading to Europe as US troops deployed and later to Asia.

I hadn't heard this before. Can you point me to a source?

historyarch  ·  2080 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Where the influenza pandemic began is not precisely known. If you note the fuller quote from my article, I said: "Some concluded it started in China or European trenches. However, the CDC and other authoritative sources report that the influenza epidemic actually began in the US spreading to Europe as US troops deployed and later to Asia."

There is a continuing debate on where this strain began. In the CDC report I cited and others, the first cases were reported in Kansas. The CDC article also mentions a rise in mortality rates in the US beginning in 1915 and 1916 which abated in 1917 which I took to imply that the flu was circulating in the US before 1918. The article could not conclude whether the 3 waves were a single strain or one of several, or one that mutated into an especially virulent form.


National Geographic reported in 2014, the conclusions of historian Mark Humphries who has advanced the theory that Chinese workers spread influenza first in North America and later Europe. As with other theories, this one has some factual backing. However, the lack of samples from each wave of the disease makes it impossible to be certain of the place of origin.


Here is another article I referenced but did not include as a source that has a good discussion of the origins of the influenza outbreak. I thought the arguments favoring the US as the first source were the most convincing:


I had other sources, most notably the book by John Barry who has written a recent and complete account: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. Barry wrote "In 1918, an influenza virus emerged-- probably in the United States-- that would spread around the world" on page 4 and he repeated that assertion later though it is not definitive. Barry wrote a summary of his book for Smithsonian.com based on his book which echoes US as a likely source of origin that you may be ale to access more easily:


If you look this subject up on the internet, you can find some reports that cite other possible origins. The origin is only a detail, not the focus of the article. One of my favorites, which I could not work in without having to add a lot of extra verbiage is a claim that the 1918 influenza came from space (not aliens, a meteor). It's an interesting theory but seems to have been rejected by most experts. Here's the main proponent, Chandra Wickramasinghe (who is a real scientist as far as I can tell) in his own words.


Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I hope this was not too lengthy of a response but I did a fair amount of research and I had previously heard about the space theory.

kleinbl00  ·  2080 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm not unaware of the 1918 pandemic. I've almost read Barry's book a few times now. ;-) I certainly haven't done the research you have but I would argue that the treatise above indicates that there are several compelling theories as to the start of the outbreak but no consensus view.

When I was born, scientific consensus had just shifted to "comets" wiping out the dinosaurs. As I grew up it wavered between volcanism and maybe a meteor or comets or something. By the time I was in middle school everyone was focusing on the K-T boundary and when I was in high school it was "Mr. Plum in the conservatory with the iron pipe." As such, I might be a little more sensitive to stating things are settled when in fact, they aren't. After all, Weekly Reader told me in no uncertain terms that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a supernova, which served to make an entire generation of schoolchildren afraid of the stars.


    Some concluded it started in China or European trenches. However, the CDC and other authoritative sources report that the influenza epidemic actually began in the US spreading to Europe as US troops deployed and later to Asia.

The CDC (your link):

    Confounding definite assignment of a geographic point of origin, the 1918 pandemic spread more or less simultaneously in 3 distinct waves during an ≈12-month period in 1918–1919, in Europe, Asia, and North America (the first wave was best described in the United States in March 1918). Historical and epidemiologic data are inadequate to identify the geographic origin of the virus, and recent phylogenetic analysis of the 1918 viral genome does not place the virus in any geographic context.

That you're bringing up meteors now that we're actually talking about it reinforces my notion that perhaps your statement shouldn't have been so definitive.

historyarch  ·  2080 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I understand your point here. I would agree that there is no single consensus. I thought sum total of what I read led to the conclusion that the pandemic began in the US. I tried to indicate there were multiple theories as well. I could have spent paragraphs talking about where the pandemic began but it's not a central point to my article. You are using consensus in a scientific context--which is valid. I wasn't trying to be that definitive. I made a conclusory statement and I acknowledge my language could have been more precise.

For the record, as I mentioned in my last response to you, I think the meteor theory is interesting but I don't take it seriously as most experts in the field seem to have dismissed it. I am not an expert and cannot really assess the data independently. I would follow Carl Sagan's axiom: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." If I had thought this was important I would have brought it up in the article.