Tag Archives: Influenza

John M. Barry – The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

This was the very first edition of what would become Forthright Radio. It was originally broadcast in November, 2004.  We spoke with John M. Barry, author of the book, THE GREAT INFLUENZA: THE EPIC STORY OF THE DEADLIEST PLAGUE IN HISTORY. 100 years ago, in 1918, as a war weary world sought to bring those years of horror we call World War I to an end, another horror arose – a new, virulent and highly contagious strain of influenza, which within, a year spread rapidly around the world. We’ll never know the exact number of those killed, but it is estimated that a minimum of 50 million, and as many as 100 million died. At today’s population level, that would be between 150 million and 300 million dead worldwide. As we begin the annual flu season, our guest, John M. Barry, tells us what we know about this pandemic and warns of the possibility of such a global pandemic occurring again in our own time. But this is not just a history of a medical disease, his depiction of the politics of the war-time situation has disturbing foreshadowing of some of the same polarized dynamics with which we find ourselves grappling today, where truth is dismissed as an arbitrary term and “the force of an idea lies in it’s inspirational value. It matters very little whether it is true or false.” As Mark Twain put it so well, History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Although this interview was conducted in 2004, when George W. Bush was president, and we were 9 months into our invasion of Iraq, and the parallels to the Wilson administration are noted, some of those parallels seem even more pertinent today under the current administration.


What We Can Learn From How the 1918 Pandemic Ended  https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/opinion/covid-pandemic-end.html

Post-Covid America Isn’t Going to Be Anything Like the Roaring ’20s https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/03/18/roaring-2020s-coronavirus-flu-pandemic-john-m-barry-477016?utm_source=pocket-newtab

America’s response to coronavirus pandemic is ‘incomprehensibly incoherent,’ says historian who studied the 1918 flu https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/americas-response-to-coronavirus-pandemic-is-incomprehensibly-incoherent-says-historian-who-studied-the-1918-flu/2020/05/22/1906391a-7b53-11ea-b6ff-597f170df8f8_story.html

‘We take no risks at all’: a voice from the Spanish flu outbreak https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/22/we-take-no-risks-at-all-a-voice-from-the-spanish-flu-outbreak

Herd Immunity? Or ‘Mass Murder’? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/opinion/coronavirus-herd-immunity.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Dr. Johan Hultin Dies at 97; His Work Helped Isolate 1918 Flu Virus https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/health/dr-johan-hultin-dead.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Obituaries

David Quammen- Spillover: Animal Infections & the Next Human Pandemic



In this edition of Forthright Radio, originally broadcast on May 1, 2013, intrepid journalist, David Quammen, discusses his book, SPILLOVER: ANIMAL INFECTIONS& THE NEXT HUMAN PANDEMIC,  in which he tracks down the animal origins of such diseases we humans are now susceptible to, including viruses such as HIV-AIDS, SARS, EBOLA, HENDRA, MARBURG, and INFLUENZA, and bacteria such as LYME DISEASE and Q FEVER.

h_research_global-emerging-infectious-diseases-map.jpgAmong the questions he investigates are: Why do new diseases emerge when they do, where they do, as they do, and not elsewhere, other ways, at other times? Is it happening more now than in the past? And perhaps the biggest question: What sort of deadly bug, with what unforeseen origins and what inexorable impacts, will emerge next?


David Quammen is the author of four books of fiction, and seven acclaimed books of nonfiction, including THE RELUCTANT MR. DARWIN and THE SONG OF THE DODO. He served as the Wallace Stegner Chair of Western American Studies at Montana State University from 2007 – 2009. He is a contributing writer for National Geographic magazine. SPILLOVER: ANIMAL INFECTIONS AND THE NEXT HUMAN PANDEMIC is more than a page turner about how microbes cross from animal species into humans and evolve into infectious diseases, it is also a chronicle of the many far flung journeys David Quammen has taken to some of the most remote parts of the globe, to interview the scientists in the field, who search for the animal reservoirs from which they come.



Articles pertinent to this interview:

Infection of Wildlife Biologist Highlights Risks of Virus Hunting https://theintercept.com/2022/07/02/virus-infection-bat-biosafety/

As Covid recedes in US a new worry emerges: wildlife passing on the virus https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/11/us-covid-wildlife-virus