Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Swine Flu is a form of influenza. Although swine flu is normally virulent only in pigs, it is thought to have crossed over to humans in the early part of the 20th century, causing the Spanish Flu pandemic. Estimates of the worldwide death toll from the Spanish Flu range up to 100 million people. The death toll was particularly high among young, healthy adults.
In 1976, a swine flu scare provided the biggest embarrassment of US President Gerald Ford's administration. On February 5 an army recruit at Fort Dix said he felt tired and weak. The next day, he was dead and four of his fellow soldiers were later hospitalized. Two weeks after his death, health officials announced that swine flu was the cause of death.
Despite the fact that only one person died, alarmed public health officials decided that action must be taken to head off a major pandemic and they urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated for the disease. The vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems but about 24 percent of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was cancelled.
The vaccine was blamed for 25 deaths (more people died from the vaccine than died from the "swine flu" itself) and a small, but statistically significant, rise in the incidence of a rare illness called Guillain-Barré syndrome or GBS.
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