The Role of Ambient Temperature and Influenza Outbreaks: A Case Study of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
Basar, Ashton Patricia
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The seasonal outbreak of influenza occurs around the same time every year with distinct patterns across temperate regions of the world. Pandemic outbreaks such as the 1918-1919 outbreak often referred to as “Spanish Flu” are less predictable and more lethal than the annual flu seasons. Scientists have suggested that environmental factors such as ambient (outdoor) temperature may have a role in the seasonal patterns following latitudinal lines between the northern and southern hemispheres of the globe. Pandemic strains, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu, have yet to be studied for a significant relationship between peak mortality and environmental factors. Using historical 1918 Spanish Flu data in three North American cities as case studies, daily mortality counts, and daily temperature values were analyzed for a significant relationship between peak flu activity and a change in temperature. Findings suggest that a fluctuation in temperature may occur prior to the peak transmission of a pandemic strain of influenza. Historical naval and civilian death records from Charleston, SC were also analyzed to provide further evidence of the spread of disease. The information found in this study can be utilized to inform future public health officials about epidemic and pandemic outbreaks of influenza at the local level and worldwide.