Articles, Blog

The Deadliest Flu Season in History?

November 10, 2019

One hundred years ago, in 1918, Europe and
America were at the height of World War I. People were moving all over, especially soldiers
flocking to the Western Front to fight. At the beginning of the war’s final year,
another enemy would enter the trenches, one that threatened people on and off the battlefield
and eventually led to more deaths than all war-related causes combined. That enemy was the flu. What made it so deadly? And 100 years later, could it happen again? [OPEN] No one knows for sure where the original 1918
flu infection happened. As the first bout of illnesses cropped up
in North America, Europe, and Asia it didn’t kill many people. But by the Fall of 1918 the disease had grown
deadlier. People displayed classic flu symptoms like
nausea, fever, and aches, but many began to develop dark spots on their cheeks, their
breathing became difficult, and their faces turned blue from lack of oxygen. These people caught pneumonia and died from
suffocation. Along the Western Front, rows of dead soldiers
piled up, who had just days earlier been young able men. Because the world was at war, news of these
deaths was kept quiet to maintain morale. Only the Spanish, who had remained neutral
in the war, wrote about the frightening numbers of illnesses and deaths, which is why this
disease is named for them (such an honor!). By the time the disease declined in 1919,
one third of the world had been infected with the Spanish flu, and between 50 million and
100 million people died– as much as 5% of the world population at the time. Enough people died in the US that the average
lifespan fell by 10 years. It was a flu more deadly than any we’d seen
before or since. But the flu has been around for a long time. We see it every year. What made the 1918 outbreak so bad? To understand this, we need to shrink down
to the nanoscale world. Influenza is a virus Influenza is a virus,
which is essentially a container made to carry genetic information. These genes are the blueprints for building
more virus – using the machinery of your own cells. Variations in these genetic blueprints determine
how deadly a particular virus is. The virus’ armored shell is made up of two
proteins. One unlocks the door to your cells. The better it can do this, the more infectious
it becomes. The second helps newly made viruses escape
from the cell. Every flu strain has a name based on different
combinations of slightly different H and N proteins. We now know the 1918 flu was an H1N1 strain,
and many Influenza viruses today are a descendant of it, including the 2009 “bird flu”. When you catch the flu virus, it invades your
cells, the viruses reproduce, and infected cells eventually burst. Your immune system senses this mess, identifies
the attacker, and starts building an army of cells that specifically recognize the invader
by reading its unique H and N surface proteins. These recognizable bits are called antigens. Once you’re better, other cells “remember”
that antigen, so you almost never get infected with the exact same flu twice. But the flu has a few tricks up its sleeve. Each time it replicates its genes, it makes
random mistakes or mutations. We call this gradual change antigenic drift. So if, say, an H1N1 strain undergoes enough
mutations, the immune system may not recognize it, and it can make you sick again. This is why you need a new flu shot every
year. But, more extreme changes in flu genes can
also occur. If an unlucky host is infected with two flu
viruses at the same time, their genes can shuffle. Instead of small gradual changes, this can
lead to radically new genetic combinations. Imagine if Nickelback and Limp Bizkit joined
forces to make Nickelbizkit. It would be even more dangerous than the originals. This kind of shuffle is called an antigenic
shift, and it creates flu viruses completely unrecognizable to our immune system. These are the viruses most likely to cause
massive outbreaks like 1918. To understand if we’re at risk for another
super virus emerging today, we need to know exactly what made the 1918 flu so catastrophic. Today we have better sanitation, vaccines,
and antivirals, yet hundreds of thousands of people still die every year from the flu. But the 1918 flu was different in some very
deadly ways, thanks to its unique genetic arrangement. In the late 1990s, two scientists resurrected
the genetic code of the 1918 influenza virus preserved in a body buried in Alaskan permafrost. Turns out two bits of the 1918 flu were essential
for its viral badness. A deadlier form of the H surface protein helped
it enter and kill lung cells more efficiently. It also carried genes that helped it make
copies of itself 50 times faster than modern flus. But it was really when all of the other pieces
of the 1918 virus were put together *with* these two that it became a “super virus”
and to be honest, we still don’t have a complete answer as to why. One answer is more certain: Another deadly
flu like 1918 IS possible. Two general factors determine if a flu will
be particularly bad – how well it travels from human to human, and how deadly it is
once it gets inside of us. For example the H5N1 bird flu has a mortality
rate of more than 50%, but it can’t spread from human to human, only from birds to humans. When you get a flu that’s good at both,
like 1918, that’s how you get a pandemic. Say, for example, bird flu mutates so it can
be transmitted between humans. That would be very bad. It’s true that modern medicine and flu shots
have helped in humanity’s war against the flu, but other aspects of our modern culture
have put us more at risk for a pandemic. Humans aren’t the only species that can
carry the flu. But because some of these other versions are
similar to human flu, a few changes and they can jump the species barrier. We have increased contact with livestock today,
making these species jumps more likely. And since we travel so much today, a deadly
virus could spread across the globe in hours. While we don’t know how to predict where
a pandemic will start, scientists agree it’s not a question of if, but when. If a flu like 1918 popped up today, an estimated
100 million people could die world wide. Can we do anything to be ready? Containing a pandemic will require global
cooperation to stop the spread and treat infected people. Because traditional vaccines take months to
develop, scientists are working on a universal flu vaccine, one that would protect against
any strain of the flu, but the task has obviously been difficult because the flu is constantly
changing. These days, the flu feels like an annoying
yearly thing. If you remember to get a shot, maybe it can
save you from a few days fever and runny nose. But flu is a real and honest threat to humanity. Humans and influenza have been at war for
centuries. Flu infects humans. Humans develop immunity. The flu mutates and the process starts again. Perhaps one day, science will help us leave
influenza in the history books. But for now, stay safe, support science, and stay curious.

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  • Reply It's Okay To Be Smart October 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    So… who’s getting a flu shot?

    Thanks for watching this week’s video! If you’ve already subscribed, thank you. If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for?! Don’t miss a video

  • Reply Levyiathan! 2026 November 2, 2018 at 8:25 am

    I'm i the only one who always think that he is only lip talking

  • Reply Sophie Talia November 2, 2018 at 9:12 am

    do healthy people need flu shots? because i've never been told to get one by a doctor.

  • Reply ThirdPartyEJJ J November 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

    World war flu

  • Reply Giacomo Zundo November 2, 2018 at 11:17 am

    That's it. I'm moving to Greenland.

  • Reply Zak Alexander November 2, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Can you guys do a vid on why virus's even exist?

  • Reply ALAPINO November 2, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Eh, I'm not too keen on most human beings anyway.

  • Reply Abhijit Mishra November 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Dogs And Cat's are going to take down us with this flue… Don't keep animals at home.. let them live with nature.

  • Reply PirateKitty November 2, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    It looks to me like we can use the same techniques a virus uses, to deliver genetic material to the inside of a cell.
    Its sad that we can shove a bomb down a guy's chimney from across the world, but can't cure a flu or a common cold !!
    Humanity has fucked up priorities…

  • Reply Paul Lawson November 2, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    If you like this video, you should watch the Extra Credits series on the pandemic.

  • Reply Dr. Schnuffelpou November 2, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Which programms do you use to create your animations? They always look great and fit the topic 🙂

  • Reply Precieux Bokoyo November 3, 2018 at 2:16 am

    flupool get it Deadpool flupool

  • Reply BloodSlaya Pro November 3, 2018 at 4:56 am

    I regret watching this

  • Reply 00crashtest November 3, 2018 at 5:08 am

    "It was a flu more deadly than any we've seen before". False. The Black Death was a million times worse!

  • Reply Scientific Creature November 3, 2018 at 8:03 am

    2:52 is that the sound of a minecraft ghast?

  • Reply lapan gomok November 3, 2018 at 8:58 am


  • Reply aznable1000 November 3, 2018 at 11:47 am

    aaaaaaaaand there's the anti-vaccine movement.

  • Reply Robert T November 3, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I will Pass on the Wolverine Flu, thanks.

  • Reply Farzana Akhter November 3, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    He said it is no a question of if . It is a question of when and then he started the question with if. 6:32

  • Reply Fabricator November 3, 2018 at 2:48 pm


  • Reply Gray Sky November 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Wait so in my time I think it was 1 or 2 years ago the flu struck and I think it was 5000 or 10000 people died. My family also got it but we were able to afford medicine. Is your video theroy the reason?? It wasn’t as strong as the Spanish flu but a lot of people died

  • Reply ntt2k November 3, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    @3:02.. that Metal Gear Solid reference 😂

  • Reply Oscar Elías Vergara García November 3, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    ¿Why are the letters on our keyboard arranged in THAT PARTICULAR order?

  • Reply TheArttarius November 3, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Their immune system is weak

  • Reply Mr_Coler November 3, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Wow! Nice channel name, you earned yourself a sub!

  • Reply Michael Mittelsteadt November 3, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    I'v never received a flu shot, and I still don't plan on it.

  • Reply spupid twins November 4, 2018 at 3:33 am

    Dear it's ok to be smart
    What is heat? Is it a state of energy or some sort of matter?dose if effect atoms matter ect?

  • Reply Kenton de Jong November 4, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    I'm an amateur historian in Regina, Saskatchewan who has spent the past year researching the Spanish Flu in my city. Last winter we erected a monument in the Regina Cemetery in honour of the victims. Thank you for covering this story 🙂

  • Reply SuicideBunny6 November 4, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Say what you want, but I'd listen to Nickelbizkit!

  • Reply Uncle Flu November 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm


  • Reply orecyte November 4, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    I bet Greenland was safe

  • Reply Carlos Tellez November 4, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Hey what does it feel like to have a tail? What does it feel like when you get touched on the tail. Like is it your lower back . ?

  • Reply Frosty Phoenix November 5, 2018 at 1:51 am

    I catch a cold like once in 2 years and it's gone in 2-3 days .. I dare to say my immune system is fine and I don't need the shots

  • Reply Epic1B November 5, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Why si the "wash your hands" bubble above the black hand in 6:51 ? x)

  • Reply Vidhya sagar Reddy November 5, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Talk about population control

  • Reply gabriel brito November 6, 2018 at 12:40 am

    Nice vídeo

  • Reply Studies Show November 6, 2018 at 2:10 am

    Love the army men graphic. Brings me back. Also thanks for the fair warning about the threat of another disastrous 1918. If I were influenza, I would definitely be planning for an extra-nefarious 2018 season to celebrate the centennial.

  • Reply Babeyface Andrews November 6, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Alligators make sandwiches

  • Reply jerky scientist November 6, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I just literally thought about this you said people love their family because of 'saving genes' which in logic child love their parents because of 'reward system' but where did sympathy and empathy came from? Eg: A saw bum on the street trigger empathy leads to A giving bit of money to that bum

    If you did a video to my answer i would appreciate it if you give me the link or if you didn't at least you'll answer me

  • Reply Jim Mauch November 6, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Explain why Native American were not able to resist deadly diseases from European explorers. Why was it not equally deadly for the Europeans?

  • Reply Discovaria November 8, 2018 at 2:41 am

    the people who are Immune to most disease has less lymphocytes do you know that?

  • Reply alex November 8, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    "Nickelbiscuit" omg i can't lmao

  • Reply Scott Maday November 8, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    I'm waiting for the anti-vaxxers to show up…

    …Then again, a channel dedicated to science probably isn't appealing to them

  • Reply Formula 226 November 9, 2018 at 10:27 am

    hey joe i researched and found out how to make energy from pollution

  • Reply Schizoidman91 November 10, 2018 at 3:10 am

    H1N1 was the swine flu not bird flu. A simple Google search can tell you that.

  • Reply Under Watch November 10, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Why does this guy look like a twig!!! Dude go eat a sandwich or something. Do you even lift the tv remote to watch tv ?

  • Reply Veselka November 10, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Was that X-MEN?

  • Reply JAMES CLEVEN November 10, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    You are wrong. There is no increased contact with livestock. It’s not like how it was in the Middle Ages where cities were disgusting. Imagine the biggest dirty pig . That but 10000000000000000 times worse. Animals ran free . They couldn’t separate drinking water from waste water. People lived close together. It was plague paradise

  • Reply X C November 11, 2018 at 12:33 am

    If anti vaxxers dont vaccinate and die,isnt that technically natural selection?

  • Reply Piarry Daniely November 11, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    I didn’t get my flu shot oof

  • Reply Piarry Daniely November 11, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    My bird also sneezes on me

  • Reply Simon the Viking November 11, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    I rarely get any flu, I think that I haven't taken that many flu shots since the bird flu, that's at least the only one I can remember. maybe I'm genetically lucky or something lel

  • Reply Esq4 AJ November 12, 2018 at 2:45 am

    Um, how does the flu kill a person? You better make a video about this because not having an answer to a question I have stressed and me and causes me to pull out my own hair

  • Reply MORJDK November 12, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Nickelbizkit the end of humanity

  • Reply gohan17denoviembre November 12, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    "Support science" that's important

  • Reply Alex Andrade November 12, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Nickelbizkit World Tour 2018: Make Metal Nu (and unbearable) Again

  • Reply Partimer Cortez November 12, 2018 at 9:37 pm


  • Reply penguins forall November 13, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Oh no! Not Nickelbizkit D:

  • Reply Bestlogic November 13, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Vaccinations should be law.. tge retards telling people not to get them will bring us a massive pandemic,.. killing millions… vaccines are setup to be a barriercso u dont send virus to weaker family members.., i cant understand why the who allows these absolute morons to preach against vaccinations.. people get ur vaccines or keep spreading ur viruses to ur family until u kill them … maybe this might help save some people… take care all..

  • Reply The Science Biome November 15, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Love the sound effects!

  • Reply Gonzalo Garcia November 15, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    "Did you wash your hands" scene kind of racist

  • Reply RubySapior November 17, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    This will be caused by the anti-vax moms

  • Reply Sunshine and Rain November 20, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    This isn't terrifying…..

  • Reply KuruGDI November 21, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    06:45 The world just needs to work together to counter a global pandamic.
    Well… We are fucked!

  • Reply Alezac Valdez November 25, 2018 at 9:48 am

    6:51 Did you wash your hand

  • Reply Drab Majesty November 30, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    this guy reminds me of trevor moore.

  • Reply Orange Bubblegum December 1, 2018 at 5:06 am

    I subscribed to 2 Cents! It sounds cool!

  • Reply Epic Music Videos December 11, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Flu is all part of god's plan, population control

  • Reply Discovaria December 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    everybody! Moth memes time wait…
    nobody cares ;-;

  • Reply June Zhang December 21, 2018 at 5:43 am

    This is the second time I got the flu in 2018, 1st in Feb, now is 2nd, way to spend 2018

  • Reply Larissa Rose Tracey Nuñez-Hill December 21, 2018 at 7:12 am

    I wrote a paper on the Spanish flu in high school

  • Reply Braeden Tesser December 24, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    My town in new jersey it was a military base in ww1 it has a moral with all the names in the people who died the spanish flu

  • Reply Bestlogic December 24, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    people vaccination helps u protect vulnerable people like ur kids snd grandparents.. get a vaccination. this is from top scientists…

  • Reply The Crater Games January 1, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    – There is a random person
    -random person getting ill because of flu
    – flu killed random person
    – flu mutated
    – flu jump to another person
    – flu killed another person
    – flu doing that for billions times
    – all people dying because of flu
    – flu dying because of lack of people

    What is point of killing people?

    And yes, it can mutate again to kill other animals, but this take a lot of energy etc. So why do flu killing and not living with animals?

  • Reply sans the skeelaton January 8, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    I got the flu 5 days before Christmas.but I feel much better now

  • Reply Omar Padilla-Moreno January 9, 2019 at 4:02 am

    watch 5:38

  • Reply Huey Tran January 20, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    It's 2019

  • Reply Jasmine VanRegenmortel January 23, 2019 at 4:07 am

    Nickel Biscuit

  • Reply Mayu Whtvr January 29, 2019 at 4:05 am

    I was always curious why so many people from the US get flu shots every year. I'm german and never got one because it is not very common around here.
    Also i just learned about the CRISPR-Genes in school so thanks for bringing that up 😀

  • Reply Alexander S. February 1, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Did anybody notice that there was a Monty Python reference at 5:55?

  • Reply FutureRN_Corey _ February 10, 2019 at 6:44 am

    I started working in healthcare about 5 years ago which required I get a flu shot before I started this job I never ever got it and rarely got sick. It seems every year I’ve gotten the shot I’ve had a few bouts of illness every year

  • Reply Abubakhar bin Albar February 13, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Did flu vaccine cause autism?

  • Reply Zitao Qiu February 13, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    There was a pro player playing Plague Inc. on easy mode in 1918. I hope we are on hard mode now.

  • Reply Animesh Puzari February 17, 2019 at 8:47 am

    is youtube a part time job for you ? ..and if yes what is your proffession?🙄

  • Reply Gangsta Bean February 19, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Flu's are the aliens.

  • Reply TheMightyZwom February 24, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    As far as I know, the problem with flu shots is, that they have to be developed AND PRODUCED before the flu season starts. Since the flu virus mutates so rapidly, there are usually a few strains that could become this year’s dominant flu strain. In Germany last year’s flu season (or maybe it was 2017? time flies, man…) was so bad because the vaccine was against the wrong flu strain – or, to be more precise: the prediction was wrong and different strain won dominance. Usually the predictions do fit, but that year it didn’t and the flu could do a full scale attack… Well, let’s hope a universal flu vaccine will exist soon.

  • Reply Vanshika Sharma February 25, 2019 at 6:01 am

    Can anyone tell me which antigen is responsible for allergie

  • Reply Juan zecaida Jr March 1, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    The black death ?

  • Reply Phįvē March 17, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    i wOuLD rAtHer stART an EpiDemic than GeT A dEADLy vaCcINE!

  • Reply Thrownguitar247 April 1, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Your da best

  • Reply hehe saucy April 11, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    You look like an older nate hill

  • Reply John Hyndman April 15, 2019 at 5:42 am

    H1N7 will be the next one.

  • Reply Steve C June 1, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Good episode. It might have been good to briefly describe anti-viral medication, though.

  • Reply Dakota Fake name July 11, 2019 at 2:54 am

    All the Karen’s of the world are going to get us killed…

  • Reply Madeleine Heath August 17, 2019 at 1:03 am

    I know that the flu hit San Fransisco pretty hard, and a bunch of my great grandparents' siblings died. So in the sibling part of my family tree, on the San Francisco side, there are a bunch of Unknown (d 1918)'s. It was a big thing.

  • Reply _ Konekocchi September 1, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Imagine if the flu first infected the humans inside hospitals. Oh… Right, a flu. Not something else🙄

  • Reply Sam I am September 22, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Hola! You got a español flu?

  • Reply Gaurang gupta October 1, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    if i am having 1 bacterial infection and 1 viral infection will that make sense

  • Reply htownshawn October 8, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    I dont like the idea of injecting myself with dead viruses for a chance to not get sick for 2-3 days. stomach flu is the worst though, never want to go through that again

  • Reply Regina Sclafford October 22, 2019 at 1:55 am

    i got mine!

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