The pathology of influenza

The pathology of influenza

M. C. Winternitz

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The epidemic of influenza, prevalent in Europe during the Great War, was watched with interest everywhere, not only because of its military importance, but also because of the danger of its spreading to other continents. The prediction that this would occur, made months before its realization, was verified on an even larger scale than had been anticipated, for in the autumn of 1918, this acute respiratory infection passed over the United States like a huge wave, taking a tremendous toll in human lives; later smaller waves followed leaving in their wake corresponding degrees of devastation. The first cases of the disease appeared on the New England coast, and New Haven was among the cities to be early invaded, though here the epidemic was somewhat less severe than in other cities along the Atlantic Seaboard.

Previous studies of experimental pneumonia in normal and aplastic animals by one of the authors (160) give a background for the interpretation of the histology of some phases of this disease, but more important are the studies of the respiratory inflammatory processes initiated by the inhalation of toxic gases. This subject, introduced into human Pathology with the use of poisonous gases in modern warfare, necessitated elaborate investigations which have just been concluded (159).

The pathology produced by the inhalation of these poisonous vapors is analogous to that found in influenzal pneumonia. This is said with a full comprehension of the criticism that may follow such a statement, and with the knowledge that a similar analogy has been drawn between influenzal and plague pneumonia (Symmers, 141). It is, however, a criticism that is welcomed and which will be met in the body of the paper.

For the reasons just cited, it has seemed desirable to contribute to the Pathology of various phases of influenzal pneumonia and to attempt to correlate this with other types of acute respiratory inflammation, in the hope that the prognostications which suggest themselves may be of aid in the prophylaxis and possibly in the treatment of the more insidious and progressive pulmonary changes that may follow this disease.

A large part of the text is devoted to a description of the gross and more minute pathology of the respiratory tract associated with influenza and its complications, both in the acute and in the subacute or chronic stages. Incidental lesions of less importance in other portions of the body that have occurred in these cases are presented briefly, and emphasis is placed upon a number of special subjects. 
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