The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people, more than the total of those who died in World War I.  It has been called the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague. The 1918 influenza virus was a strain that is known today as H1N1.  Interestingly, a variant of H1N1 is the “Swine Flu” strain circulating the globe today [Go to our website ( to see an extract from a previous Report, “In Times Like These” where we provide extensive information on the subject of Influenza ─ Ed.].

The important thing to note about the 1918 flu pandemic is that it wasn’t the flu virus per se which caused so many deaths.  Rather, most died of bacterial pneumonia.  A recent paper on the 1918 flu pandemic in the CDC’s journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases states that the conventional wisdom underlying pandemic flu preparations is wrong.  Medical and scientific experts now agree that bacteria, not influenza viruses, were the greatest cause of death during the 1918 flu pandemic.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released the report, “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013” (hereafter, the “Report”) which announced that “antimicrobial resistance is one of our most serious health threats”.  The Report, which runs more than 100 pages, describes itself to be “a snapshot of the complex problem of antibiotic resistance today and the potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction”.  Its overriding purpose is “to increase awareness of the threat that antibiotic resistance poses and to encourage immediate action to address the threat.”

(Here’s the link if you’d like to take a closer look:

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The Post-Antibiotic Era: Emerging Deadly Superbugs

With more than 40 diseases in existence today that were unknown a generation ago, and about 1,100 epidemic events verified by the WHO [World Health Organization] in the past five years, it’s nearly impossible to keep up on the emergence of infectious disease events as they break…

—Larry Madoff, MD, International Society for Infectious Diseases

  Our communities aren’t safe from these kinds of organisms, which creep in and go from person to person.  Many of these threats are more important, more real, and more possible than the threats of bioterrorism.  We are trying to alert both the scientific and the lay community, and especially our own government, to this threat to the homeland.

—Stuart B. Levy, MD, Director, Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance Tufts University School of Medicine

  Over the decades the bacteria that antibiotics control have developed resistance to these drugs. Today, virtually all important, bacterial infections in the United States and throughout the world are becoming resistant.

—Centers for Disease Control (CDC) [Emphasis ours]

   The global increase in resistance to antimicrobial drugs, including the emergence of bacterial strains that are resistant to all available antibacterial agents, has created a public health problem of potentially crisis proportions.

—American Medical Association (AMA) [Emphasis ours]

The discovery of antibiotics and their introduction into medical practice was hailed as one of the most important events in the struggle against human infectious diseases.  The “Antibiotic Era” began in earnest in the early 1940s, Penicillin being the first antibiotic introduced into clinical practice.  Discovery after discovery of effective anti-bacterial drugs then followed and optimism ran high in anticipation of the soon conquest of infectious disease.  So high, in fact, that in 1969, William H. Stewart, then Surgeon General of the United States, testified in Congress that, “the time has come to close the book on infectious diseases”.  Since that premature, overconfident assertion there has been a powerful resurgence of infectious diseases, the single most threatening component of which has been the appearance of disease-causing bacteria which have become resistant to antibiotics. Scientists began noticing that each time they developed a new class of antibiotics, it wasn’t long before pathogens developed resistance to them.

In 1964, physicians began using new drugs called Cephalosporins, which were effective against many infections, including pneumonia; but E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and a genus of bacteria called Enterobacter soon developed a way to fend them off.  Out of pharmaceutical labs then came the Carbapenem and Fluoroquinolone drugs and, within a matter of just a few years, they began to lose their effectiveness against Acinetobacter species and other microbes (see “The Frightening Emergence of NDM-1, KPC”, below). The first penicillin-resistant Pneumococcus was discovered two years before the above-quoted “Mission Accomplished” statement by the U.S. Surgeon General. It was found in Papua, New Guinea.

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