The flu outbreak of 1918 was one of the worst killers in history, but for some reason it doesn't feature very much in history lessons. In Flu
, Gina Kolata takes a look at this outbreak, and the influence it has had since that time. However, this book is not primarily a history of the 1918 outbreak. Nor does it explain the details of the science of the flu virus to the reader. Rather it is a collection of stories related to the outbreak, and in particular those of scientists who have sought to prevent a recurrence.
Thus we hear how samples of the virus have been obtained from victims of the disease buried in the arctic permafrost - the low key efforts of Johan Hultin in the 1950's and the 1990's and the much larger project organised by Kirsty Duncan. We also find out about the work of Jeffery Taubenberger, who analysed such samples in the hope of discovering the structure of the virus concerned. There are a couple of chapters on the mass vaccination program in the USA in 1976, and its problems. Hence if you want to get an idea of the legacy of the 1918 flu, without going too much into technicalities, then you should take a look at this book.