The swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus emerged as a massive threat to global health in 2009. It was first discovered in three human beings in Mexico in April 2009. The virus spread fast in the human population and resulted in a pandemic that proved to be significant and very costly to the human population. Although Swine Flu seemed to come out of nowhere, there’s actually an extensive history of how it emerged. Shockingly, it actually dates back to 1889! Let’s take a look at a timeline of the events of Swine Flu history.
A new strain of H2 flu emerged in Russia. Also known as the “Asiatic flu” or “Russian flu”, this strain spread around the world, killing approximately one million people. This was the last great pandemic of the 19th century.
The “Spanish flu” epidemic of 1918 was the deadliest in history, affecting over 500 million and killing at least 50 million people worldwide.
Called Pfeiffer’s bacillus, this swine flu was first isolated from a pig in Iowa. This scientific development would prove to be a breakthrough on the transmission of influenza.
The first human flu virus is isolated at Mill Hill in London. This virus produces a disease whose symptoms are all but identical to the Iowan pig virus.
An H2N2 virus causes the “Asian” flu pandemic, completely displacing the H1N1 viruses in 1918.
An H3N2 virus causes the “Hong Kong” flu pandemic, which is even milder than the Asian flu, killing an estimated 750,000 to 1 million people worldwide.
An H1N1 virus jumps from pigs to humans and kills a US army recruit. However, the virus never spreads from the army base. It did lead to 48 million Americans being vaccinated, though.
An H1N1 virus appears in north-east China and starts circulating in humans.
The predecessor of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus emerges in the US. US pig farms try to control it with vaccines, but these attempts are largely ineffective because the virus evolves too rapidly.
2004 – 2006
H5N1 flu, first identified as a threat to humans in Hong Kong in 1997, spreads from Asia around the world. This threat leads to “pandemic planning” world wide.
2007 – 2008
Pandemic fears boost spending on flu research. Additionally, a worldwide database of influenza data is launched, allowing researchers to track large numbers of illness and see outbreaks.
The first cases of a new type of swine flu are reported in California and Texas in late March.
On 27 April, 900 cases of suspected swine flu were reported in Mexico. Intensive efforts to develop a vaccine began, and the U.S. government banned travel to and from Mexico.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the Swine Flu outbreak as a pandemic worldwide. Over 12,000 people died from the disease in the United States, and of those 12,000 deaths, 80 percent were estimated to be under the age of 65.
In October 2009, an H1N1 vaccine was approved. The WHO declared an end to the outbreak in August of 2010, a full year and a half later. The Swine Flu was estimated to have caused between 100,000 and 400,000 deaths globally in the first year alone.