The last flu pandemic was in 1968 when “Hong Kong” flu killed about a million people globally

A strain of flu never seen before has killed up to 60 people in Mexico and also appeared in the United States, where eight people were infected but recovered, health officials said on Friday.

Mexico’s government said at least 20 people have died of the flu and it may also be responsible for 40 other deaths.

It shut down schools and canceled major public events in Mexico City to try to prevent more deaths in the sprawling, overcrowded capital. Authorities said they had enough antiviral medicine to treat about 1,000 suspected cases reported so far.

The World Health Organization said tests showed the virus from 12 of the Mexican patients was the same genetically as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, seen in eight people in California and Texas.

“Our concern has grown as of yesterday,” Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Global health officials were not ready to declare a pandemic — a global epidemic of a new and deadly disease such as flu. “So far there has not been any change in the pandemic threat level,” Besser said.

But the human-to-human spread of the new virus raised fears of a major outbreak. Mexico’s government suspended classes for millions of children in Mexico City, where scared residents rushed out to buy face masks and kept their kids at home.

“We’re frightened because they say it’s not exactly flu, it’s another kind of virus and we’re not vaccinated,” said Angeles Rivera, 34, a government worker who fetched her son from a public kindergarten that was closing.

Close analysis showed the disease is a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses, according to the CDC.

Humans can occasionally catch swine flu from pigs but rarely have they been known to pass it on to other people.

Mexico reported 1,004 suspected cases of the new virus, including four possible cases in Mexicali on the border with California.

Most of the dead were aged between 25 and 45, a health official said. It was a worrying sign as seasonal flu can be more deadly among the very young and the very old but a hallmark of pandemics is that they affect healthy young adults.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said Mexico has enough antiviral drugs to combat the outbreak for the moment. “In the last 20 hours, fewer serious cases of this disease and fewer deaths have been reported,” he told reporters.

The WHO said the virus appears to be susceptible to Roche AG’s flu drug Tamiflu, also known as oseltamivir, but not to older flu drugs such as amantadine.


Canada has not reported any cases of the flu and is not issuing a travel warning for Mexico, but the country’s chief public health officer David Butler-Jones said the outbreak was “very concerning” and Canada was paying close attention.

The CDC’s Besser said it was probably too late to contain the outbreak. “There are things that we see that suggest that containment is not very likely,” he said. Once it has spread beyond a limited geographical area it would be difficult to control.

But there is no reason to avoid Mexico, CDC and the WHO said. “CDC is not recommending any additional recommendations for travelers to California, Texas and Mexico,” Besser said.

Worldwide, seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people in an average year, but the flu season for North America should have been winding down.

The U.S. government said it was closely following the new cases. “The White House is taking the situation seriously and monitoring for any new developments. The president has been fully briefed,” an administration official said.

In California, where six people have been infected with the flu, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said authorities were monitoring patients with flu-like symptoms and communicating with Mexican health officials.

Mexico’s government cautioned people not to shake hands or kiss when greeting or to share food, glasses or cutlery. Flu virus can be spread on the hands, and handwashing is one of the most important ways to prevent its spread.

The outbreak jolted residents of the Mexican capital, one of the world’s biggest cities with around 20 million residents. One pharmacy ran out of surgical face masks after selling 300 in a day.

The virus is an influenza A virus, carrying the designation H1N1. It contains DNA from avian, swine and human viruses, including elements from European and Asian swine viruses, said the CDC, which is already working on a vaccine.

Scientists were trying to understand why there are so many deaths in Mexico when the infections in the United States seem mild, Besser said.

The CDC said it will issue daily updates here

Surveillance for and scrutiny of influenza has been stepped up since 2003, when H5N1 bird flu reappeared in Asia. Experts fear that or another strain could cause a pandemic that could kill millions.

The last flu pandemic was in 1968 when “Hong Kong” flu killed about a million people globally.


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26 responses to “The last flu pandemic was in 1968 when “Hong Kong” flu killed about a million people globally

  1. I had the “HOng Kong” flu in 1968. I was never so sick in all my life as I was that week. It was really bad.

  2. tell us more about the 1968 flu george

  3. Fishleg

    Please!! I was a little rugrat at the time and would love to hear about it!

  4. Ive had influenza more times than I can remember, since I was a kid. I had flu lasy year too.Im 63 now. I was real rough with the flu last year.

  5. high heels

    The Hong Kong flu of ’68, hit when most of us were on Christmas break, from just before Christmas until after the 1st of 1969. Most of us were horribly sick the whole school vacation. I was 9, so I don’t remember too much, but I do remember being in bed most of the vacation. The winter was bad that year too, so not only was it horrible to be sick inside, the NorthEast was howling with snow too!

  6. Pingback: Swine Flu Posts from Around the Blogosphere - It’s Obama’s Fault « The Church of Jesus Christ

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  8. David McColley

    Whoever runs this site is a FUCKING MORON.

  9. Thank you David.

    What a treat to have an Obamabot from Utah visit us. Rare Species, you are.

    But did you mean:

    Whoever voted for the puppet is a FUCKING MORON?

  10. David = Queerbait.

    My uncle’s wife died from having the flu. Not the bird flu. Not swine flu. Not Japanese nuclear bomb flu. Just regular flu. Within a week or two of getting sick – everything changed.

    :-| I fear for my nation.
    (Except David. I hope he sucks a pig)

  11. I remember that flu like it was yesterday! I thought, and actually asked my mother, “…am I going to die…”

    She responded…”I don’t know.” Yikes!


  12. Lor

    I had the Hong Kong flu when I was 7 years old, I was born in 1962. I was in the hospital twice in a one month period for a week each time. I don’t remember alot about it, but I do know I had a temperature of 107 degrees both times and my mom freaking out rushing me to the hospital the second time. I couldn’t keep anything down and was on an IV both times in the hospital. I remember being very underweight when I went back home. I guess I was lucky it wasn’t worse.

  13. Pretty much as High Heals said above. I was sick in January of 1969. Hong Kong flu started in 68. It started with this HORRIBLE sore throat/ and cough. Could not even drink water. Everytime I coughed it felt like a thousand swords were cutting my throat. Fever and aches. Couldn’t get out of bed for 7 days. I believe I was unconcious for 12 to 24 hours at one point as I don’t remember anything. 10 years old then and I truly believe I was close to death. As a side… The news on the radio always reported deaths from the flu but I don’t remember anything being shut down. Our school had numerous absentees but life (and death) went on.

  14. Jeanene

    I was living in Okinawa in December 1968, just about ready to go back to the states with my family. I was 14. We all got HongKong Flu before our trip, and we couldn’t fly until we were all clear. Oh my gosh, was I ever sick. I was nearly unconscious for a couple of days. My throat was a raw swollen mess.
    However, I believe that I may have some immunity because of this…as I never get the flu. Hopefully, the swine flu will pass me by!

  15. Liz

    I was 13 when I had Hong Kong Flu in December ’68. I don’t remember being that sick again in my life. In bed for 7 days, at one point lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital. I thought I might die and so did my parents. I pray this one passes me by.

  16. Bird

    I was 4 or 5 when I got the hong kong flu. I remember it well. It was one awful bug!!
    People don’t die from flu, they die from complications of the flu. We will not have as many deaths as mexico, because at least for the moment we are not an uneducated third world hell hole.

  17. Cusslerman

    I remember the Hong Kong Flu in 1968. I was 18 and in a matter of hours I was bed ridden. I could not walk, had a very high fever, no muscle control and my throat felt like it was polished with sandpaper. I absolutely thought I was a goner. For about 9 days I hovered between delirium and consciousness. My mother, bless her soul stayed by me and nursed me back to health. It was a horrible experience.

  18. Frosteetoes

    Well, I’m glad you guys survived it and came by to share your experiences of it. Bird is right. It’s the complications that kill people who get it. Take good care of yourselves everyone, should this become really serious.

  19. MJH

    I too had the Hong Kong flu in 1868. I contracted it in December and was treated with Tetracyclene which, as it turned out, I was quite allergic to. That made it even more fun. I was sick for a good six weeks and ended up with pneumonia in both lungs. I was 26 at the time.

    While I didn’t start taking annual flu shots until maybe 15 to 20 years ago I have never had another case of any flu.

    In the years since 1968 the only things I’ve had that made me feel ill (throw up, etc.) was one case of a stomach flu and one case of food poisoning. You will not find me complaining about that.


  20. Biff

    I was 18 yrs old back in 1969 when I contracted the Hong Kong Flu in Sydney Auatralia. It laid me up for up to ten days in bed and was weak as a kitten.
    I remember it was during July when Armstrong landed on the Moon. Even after I returned to work, it took me a long time to regain my normal weight.
    I can say however, I have not had a Flu since, or a major “cold”. I also clean my tongue when cleaning my teeth evert morning. I beleive that a lot of bacteria live on the tongue, and this has helped in me not attracting Flu or Cold symtoms.

  21. suem

    I was about 7 or 8 years old my mom, dad and I had the Hong Kong flu. As others have said I was sooo sick never have been that sick again thank goodness. We lived in a small town that had a grocer who would deliver your groceries to your home which we took advantage that is how sick we were. I remember laying in bed going in and out of sleep. I also remember my mom saying at one point she had to go somewhere I think before we had the grocieries delivered that she wished her car would go off the side of the road and an ambulance would come for her and take care of her that is how sick she felt. I also remember my hair being so matted cause we were so sick no one brushed my hair or had the strengh too.

  22. I too had the Hong Kong flue of 69, I lived in Baltimore. Out and in of conciousness. Doctor came to house. Isolated and went temporarily deaf. No serios flu or cold since. weird, I was all kindsaa sick, but dont really remember the symptoms, just deaf and lack of conscious, then getting better. couldnt take THAT again, im thnking or similar. Hope it doesnt happen.Snow to the chimney it seemed, and roads all ice, made coming and going treacherous as i recall Mystic


    Had the Hong Cong flu in December 1968. Never again had I been that sick. Now age 61, I could not survive it today. That’s how bad it was. 105 fever, every bone hurt bad. Never want to go through something like that again.

  24. Pingback: Rebrote da “Gripe de Hong Kong” (H3N2) | Ciencias

  25. hey Dennis this is r. villareal from Rosenberg.i also had the flu in 1968 while i was station iin rantoul ill .I was on the last two day from graduartion from fire fighting. As soon as i finished i went to the base hospital and immediatley admitted. the doctor asked if i was sitting because i had 105 107. I was just wondering how your health today.

  26. Pingback: Rebrote de la "Gripe de Hong Kong" (H3N2) | Ciencias y cosas ---> Talk back, don't let them hold you down...

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