Making the vaccine against the Influenza Outbreak of 1957

The pattern of the 1957 Influenza outbreak is largely similar to that of COVID-19. A new and deadly strain of flu emerges in Asia, then spreads around the world and arrives in the United States. Pandemic has been declared.

The new virus was first reported in 1957 in Singapore, in February of the same year, and then made its way to Hong Kong. In June, the disease reached America.

Patients were often able to trace the onset of the Asian Flu (as it was named), staggering in the legs and prostration followed by chills, sore throat, runny nose and cough; Along with pain in the limbs (adults), head (children), and followed by high fever. Small children, especially boys, started bleeding from their noses.

Symptoms were mostly mild and patients usually recovered after a period in bed with simple anti-fever measures. Complications occurred in 3% of cases with a 0.3% mortality rate. Of these, 50% are attributable to pneumonia and bronchitis.

Life magazine announced in a 1957 issue that "the government has launched the fastest medical mobilization ever against pandemic disease," and the race for a cure began in April 1957, when forward-looking researchers from Walter Reed first developed started working on a commentary.

The first of the photos shown here documented the fascinating process by which the vaccine was made, in which isolated virus was injected into an egg. After the virus multiplied inside the shell, the fetal fluid was taken out, the virus was killed, and the treated fluid was used as the vaccine.

The first batches of the vaccine were issued while the weather was still warm, in late August and early September. The vaccine was produced quickly, but not enough to cover the entire population, nor was it 100 percent effective.

Unlike COVID-19, there was no mass quarantine or shelter in place. As children returned to school, the number of flu patients began to rise.

In November of that year, Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney predicted that "the epidemic would get worse over the next six weeks, and then subside."

Bernie was right to an extent. While this flu seemed to subside after Thanksgiving, it proved to be a resurgence, and cases spiked again in early 1958. By the end, the pandemic was linked to 110,000 deaths in the United States and 1.1 million worldwide, according to CDC data.

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