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Stigmatization and Scientific Inquiry in the Tracing of the Origin of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in the United States
作者:Tao Feiya a, Zou Zetao b and Yang Enlu c

  Tao Feiya a, Zou Zetao b and Yang Enlu c

  a School of History, Shanghai University

  b Institute of Global Studies, Shanghai University

  c Center for Drugs and National Security Studies, Shanghai University

  Abstract:The United States was hard hit by the great influenza pandemic of 1918. The national policy of putting the war first, the unprecedented scale of military training, and the worldwide troop movements and engagement created the conditions for the spread of the pandemic and at the same time seriously weakened US preparedness. The unprecedented pandemic threw American society into extreme panic and spawned all kinds of hypotheses about the pandemic’s geographic origin. Some of the press turned scientifically “tracing the flu” into a succession of pejorative geopolitical exonyms, stigmatizing it as “Spanish flu,” “Russian flu,” “German poisoning,” “Chinese plague,” etc. The groundless ascription of a geographic origin to the influenza pandemic was questioned at the time by insightful American medical professionals and even by Chinese medical experts. In the aftermath of the pandemic, tracking its source became a professional issue of pure medical science, with the search for the pathogen of the pandemic becoming a priority. The discovery and genetic sequencing of the 1918 influenza virus by scientists in the US and other countries led to landmark advances in the discovery of the pathogen, so the importance of tracing it back to its place of origin has taken a back seat. Although evidence of the geographic origin of the 1918 influenza pandemic is not conclusive, medical science has developed enough to disprove the ridiculous “geographic tracking” in the US during the pandemic.

   Keywords: 1918 influenza pandemic, geographic origin tracing, stigmatization, scientific origin tracing, influenza virus

 

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