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Secrets of the Dead: Killer Flu
Secrets of the Dead Killer Flu
Director: Bill Lyons
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 0min


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Movie Details

Director: Bill Lyons
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/06/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A very informative look at the deadly flu pandemic of 1918
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 04/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'll admit it - I'm a flu scoffer. Flu shot? No, thank you. I'm not THAT old yet, and I've never been wild about being given an injection of something I'm trying to avoid in the first place. And besides, everybody knows that any really dangerous disease would have some long, hard-to-pronounce name. It's just hard for some of us to take the flu seriously. Oh, we hear about the flu epidemic of 1918, but it doesn't really impress us like, say, the freaking bubonic plague. This Killer Flu edition of Secrets of the Dead, though, has given me a little more respect for this bug with the short, harmless name - not enough to get me on the "super flu is going to kill us all any year now" bandwagon, but enough for me to stop my flu-scoffing ways.

I was amazed to learn that the flu kills some forty thousand Americans each year. Most of those victims are the elderly, but that's still a pretty impressive stat. The Black Death killed millions of people, but it wasn't killing tens of thousands almost a century later. On top of that is an even more impressive stat - the flu pandemic of 1918 was even more lethal than the Black Death. We're talking 40 million to 60 million (some even speculate 100 million) people dead across the globe over the space of some two years. Now that's a super flu right there now. This documentary puts 1918's Killer Flu strain in its historical and scientific context.

Where did the deadly strain come from that year? That's a pretty important thing to know if you want to help guard against another super flu epidemic, one that would spread across the entire globe like wildfire in this day and age, given our advanced mass transportation system. Well, guess what? We still don't know exactly where the deadly 1918 strain originated. (Now you might think it began in Spain, but don't let that "Spanish flu" tag it acquired fool you; this documentary explains where that misleading name came from.) It has long been assumed that it began in Fort Riley, Kansas in March of 1918 (where hundreds of American soldiers quickly fell ill and 48 ultimately died), and was then carried to Europe by American soldiers arriving to take up the fight against Germany. Soldiers on both sides of the war soon began dying of the flu, as the terrible conditions of trench warfare made for an active breeding ground of all sorts of disease. The privations of war also made civilian populations, especially those in rural areas, exceedingly vulnerable to the flu as it spread. One researcher in this film questions the assumed origins of the 1918 strain, though, pointing to a possible precursor in the "purulent bronchitis" that killed significant numbers at a traffic-heavy military base in Etaples, France in 1916.

We know much more today than the medical experts knew in 1918 - heck, doctors back then thought the source of the disease was a bacterium rather than a virus. Still, even though the virus is made up of only eight genes and actual culture samples of the 1918 strain have been discovered and studied, the genetic code of that killer flu has yet to give up all of its secrets. With experts warning us year in and year out that the next super flu pandemic is long overdue, it's important for us to learn as much as we can about the tragic circumstances of 1918 and to take such a threat (no matter how overdramatized it may be at times) seriously. Secrets of the Dead: Killer Flu goes a long way toward making that happen."