CPP Curiosities: Influenza Virus

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Greetings and salutations, fellow historico-medico afficionados, and welcome to another installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular segment on the unusual and interesting aspects of medical history. Today’s issue is the second in a three-part series of guest articles written by students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program. The KJF Program is a three-year after-school and summer internship for Philadelphia high school students from underserved communities who have an interest in careers in healthcare and medicine. These two wrote these articles as part of a two-week summer internship wherein they worked closely with staff in the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and conducted original research on a topic of their choice. This time around, Karabots Junior Fellow Cliford Louis is here to inform you about influenza.

The floor is yours, Clif!

Figure 1. “Preparing to Bury City’s Influenza Victims,” Scrapbook of newspaper clippings concerning the influenza epidemic in Philadelphia, 1918-1919.  Call no. Z10d 7.  Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

On March 11, 1918 at Fort Riley, Kansas,  a soldier reported a fever before breakfast and was later followed by other soldiers with the same complaints. By the end of that week, 500 soldiers were ill and being hospitalized. They were early victims of the infamous Spanish flu. An estimated  675,000 Americans died of influenza during the epidemic, more than all of the wars this century combined, and the disease killed millions worldwide during World War I. At first, scientists considered it a bacterial infection. Nowadays, scientists can confidently describe flu as a virus and explain what it does to the human body once they contain the strain of this virus. 

What is the flu …?

“The influenza virus is a member of the family [Orthomyxoviridae]” (Dehner 23), meaning that the flu is a group of RNA virus. There are three types of influenza: A, B, and C.

  • Type C is considered unimportant because it rarely causes infection.

  • Type B is mildly infectious, but it can cause epidemics.

  • Type A causes the greater threat to humanity; it attacks the respiratory system, and it is highly contagious. 

Figure 2”influenza virus,” Kathmandu Tribune, 12 October 2017. https://kathmandutribune.com/17-people-die-influenza-virus/

The influenza virus is a single stranded RNA virus and normally attacks the epithelial cell. Once the virus reaches the cell, it seizes it to develop new copies of the virus.

“Ultimately the influenza virus destroys any infected cell by destroying the outer layer. The daughter cells that infect adjoining epithelial cells quickly produce many millions of copies of the virus” (Dehner 24). 

This describes the effect of the virus inside of an infected person, and it shows why this epidemic was so deadly. Moreover, the explosive spread and large impact of the virus proves its immense dominance during the time of war. An infected person can transmit the virus to another person through the air by a cough or sneeze.

 

Figure 2 “Red Cross Ambulance Demonstration – Washington DC,” 1918 Historical Image Gallery from the Center For Disease Control And Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918

Animals such as pigs, waterfowl, seals, horses and whales are considered sources containing the virus; they can catch and transmit the influenza virus to humans.

“Strategies of containment and eradication are impractical because the virus has unquantifiable opportunities for jumping from its natural host to other species, including humans” (Dehner 27).

“To be effective, any response to a pandemic strain must be quick enough to stay ahead of the rapidly transmissible influenza virus, consideration even more important in today’s increasingly interconnected world” (Dehner 196).

Figure 4. Image from “Is the flu shot safe during pregnancy,” The Bump. https://www.thebump.com/a/flu-shot-when-pregnanti

 

Even with current medicine and increasingly powerful technologies, the virus cannot be eliminated in the world; therefore, the CDC recommends yearly flu vaccines for everyone from six months old and older. Flu season is an important time in the world; the recommendation from doctors, nurses and other medical stuff to receive the flu shot is very vital in society. These vaccines creates antibodies, which helps to prevent viruses including the influenza. ‘Influenza pandemics are relatively rare events.’

 Previous history of influenza epidemics around the world over the past century can really help scientists finding a unique vital antidote to eradicate the flu. A lot has been learned about the influenza virus, but there is still plenty to be known and discovered to reach the stage of elimination for the virus.

Sources:

Dehner, George. Influenza A Century of Science and Public Health Response. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh  Press, 2012.

Thanks, Clif! Be sure to check back for our final guest article. Until next time, catch you on the strange side!

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CPP Curiosities: Mental Health and “Moral Treatment”

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Greetings and salutations, fellow historico-medico afficionados, and welcome to another installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular segment on the unusual and interesting aspects of medical history. Past articles have covered a variety of topics, from historic treatments for syphilis to the preservation of Lenin’s remains to the Greek and Roman god of medicine.

Today’s issue is the first in a three-part series of guest articles written by students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program. The KJF Program is a three-year after-school and summer internship for Philadelphia high school students from underserved communities who have an interest in careers in healthcare and medicine. These two wrote these articles as part of a two-week summer internship wherein they worked closely with staff in the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and conducted original research on a topic of their choice. First up is Yazmeen Robinson, who chose to research “moral treatment,” a 19th century mental health practice.

Take it away, Yazmeen!  –KI

Seven female patients in the "Insane Department" at Philadelphia General Hospital sit around a small table.

“Patients in insane department,” Philadelphia General Hospital Photograph Collection, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, box 2, photo no. 7

Psychiatric hospitals were built for those who were suffering from mental illness and could somehow recover from it. During the nineteenth-century in the United States, there were new European ideas about the treatment of people who were mentally ill. These ideas were called “moral treatment” which promised treatment for those with mental illness in an asylum. During the 19th century, they thought that by treating the patients more like children rather than an animal, patients would have a better chance at recovering. Treating the patients as individuals and helping them to gain control of themselves was very important. Moral treatment at the asylum was connected with occupational therapy, religion, and their community. Moral treatment usually didn’t include traditional treatments like physical restraints.

The moral treatment of the insane refused to associate with the disruptive behavior of mentally ill individuals. Some people with mental illness were too violent or disruptive to stay at their homes or in their communities. Some people with mental illness received treatment at home other than a hospital.

Friends Asylum was established by Philadelphia’s Quaker community in 1814, which was the first institute designed to perform the full program of moral treatment. The Friends Asylum wasn’t run by physicians. It was run by lay staff, which made it unique. Private hospitals were more available to wealthier families to care for their mentally ill family member.

At Taunton Hospital in Massachusetts, there was a lower story that was built and designed for patients that were uncontrollable or considered “filthy.” The Taunton Lunatic Asylum Casebook (1854-1868) has 240 entries with patients’ names, mental states, family histories, and financial status. These records contained information about patients’ profession, lineage, time in America, ships sailed on, and whether their taxes had been paid.

Page from Taunton Lunatic Asylum casebook (1854 - 1868), MSS 6/011, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Page from Taunton Lunatic Asylum casebook (1854 – 1868), MSS 6/011, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Here are two patient records that I found interesting:

pg. 101:

Weigandt, Louis, 41, admitted April 3,1860, Boston
Hopeless and quiet
German in Boston, 12 years, wife lives at 70 Crystal Palace, Luicida St.
Mr. Nash reports Weigandt born in Germany, landed in New York how long ago unknown. Parents never in U.S.; Weigandt had lived mostly in Boston.
Wife Jane born in Marblehead, no doubt has a set[?] there
Is cousins with cashier of Marblehead Bank
Mr. Locke says wife [?] care of [?] Crystal Palace

pg. 96:

Copeland, John, 29, admitted Feburary 24, 1860 North Bedford
Doubtful and troublesome; now has been very [?]; fugitive slave; can go as far as health is concerned
Mr. Locke says [Copeland] born in Newburn, North Carolina
Feb 23rd 1863: He [Copeland] says does not know where he was born first found himself in Newburn. Then to Duplin County, there 4 years, came to Philadelphia in 1855 from Wilmington, thence to New York and Albany. 2 years in Albany, then to Wilton County, 9 months there, then to North Bedford, 2 months there. Send to Philadelphia.

Today there are only a few psychiatric hospitals that exist. Psychiatric care is now delivered through other services, such as crisis service. Doctors today gives patients psychiatric medications, such as, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood-stabilizing medications, which help treat, but do not completely cure, mental illness. Depending on how severe the patient’s mental illness is, the treatment that will be given could be a mixed treatment. Today there is a treatment team that helps with a patient’s unique recovery plan, which includes educational programs, support groups, and counseling.

Thanks, Yazmeen! Be sure to check back, dear reader, for our second installment soon. Until next time. Catch you on the strange side!

CFE and WINS Youth Discuss Careers in STEM

Panelists speak to Philadelphia high school students at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

In keeping with our commitment to introducing Philadelphia youth to the diverse science, technical, and medical careers available to them, students in our four youth programs–the Karabots Junior Fellows Program, the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship, the Out4STEM Internship, and the Girls One Diaspora Club–gathered at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia with members of the Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) Program of the Academy of Natural Sciences. Together they met with a panel of outstanding women representing diverse fields in healthcare, medicine, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Joining the students were:

  • Maria Benedetto, PT, DPT, MA, PCS (CPP Fellow), Associate Clinical Professor, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences Department, Drexel University
  • Joanna Chan, MD, Jefferson University Physician
  • Drisana Henry, MD, MPH, Adolescent Medical Fellow, Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Katherine Lynch, MLS, Senior Developer, University of Pennsylvania Libraries
  • Loni Philip Tabb, PhD., Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University

Moderated by Kevin Impellizeri, Youth Program Coordinator, the panelists shared their personal journeys toward their fields and provided advice for aspiring medical and technological professionals. They proved there is no one set path to any career, explaining challenges and diversions they faced along the way. They also offered frank advice on challenges facing women professionals such as sexism and workplace harassment. They also shared the ways they cope with stress and how they found ways to relax when things get stressful. Our students offered insightful questions and gained a greater understanding of different professional pathways. We are extremely grateful to all the panelists who offered their time and expertise to these aspiring future professionals.