Bacteria, Viruses, and Protists

Virus Basics

Why is influenza considered to be one of the most lethal viruses?

The influenza virus is probably the most lethal virus in human history. In fact, the symptoms of human influenza were described by Greek physician Hippocrates about 2,400 years ago. Since that time, many outbreaks have occurred: Some say Christopher Columbus brought the virus to the Antilles in 1493, causing close to the entire population to die; it was also responsible for fifty million deaths during a worldwide outbreak in 1918 (see below); and the 1957 Asian flu and 1968 Hong Kong flu killed millions of people. In fact, according to statistics, seasonal outbreaks around the world often average between 250,000 to 500,000 deaths from the virus.


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