I was wondering…How many of the people who died in 1918 had their tonsils removed? Is lack of excess lung capacity a factor in flu/pneumonia deaths? –From Chuck S in Minnesota
These are excellent questions from a thoughtful reader. And they’re just the sort of questions that should be researched by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but as stated in the Daily Dispatch, we don’t have the answers! They might question the profitable assembly-line industry of removing “unnecessary” tissues that Nature provided—tissues that may turn out to have life-saving benefits.
We will never know the answers about the 1918 flu epidemic in terms of what made people more susceptible–but we should have the answers as to what made that virus more deadly. Nearly 20 years ago, I first proposed that the 1918 flu virus be recovered from tissues archived at Walter Reed and studied. Several government careers have been made out of this effort since, but we are still waiting for the answers! Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear the government found a lot of answers for this year’s flu vaccine–which appears marginally effective in most, and completely ineffective in some key target groups (see Daily Dispatch “The Flu Follies”). But you won’t hear that on TV!