GIS, Health Geographies, and the 1918-1919 Flu Pandemic: A Preliminary Investigation

Authors: Stephen O'Connell*, University of Central Arkansas
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Historical Geography
Keywords: influenza, Health GIS,
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent outbreaks of Ebola, Influenza, Zika, and other infectious diseases often spark concern about the potential for global pandemics. With complex global interactions occurring with increasing frequencies, transmission of these diseases seems to be an inevitability. Research into prior influenza events—notably the H1NI strain outbreaks of 1918-1919 and 2009—suggest, however, that patterns of transmission and mortality differ greatly from normal seasonal outbreaks. Understanding the local patterns of influenza mortality from these past events can help guide policies and protocols for managing future pandemics. This poster will examine county-level influenza deaths for a selection of US states for a period covering approximately nine months from late summer 1918 to late spring 1919, the period that saw the greatest number of influenza deaths across the country. Comparison of transmission vectors, influenza-specific mortality rates, and demographic profiles across states and regions will be the focus. Mortality reports were collected from state and local archives of vital records as part of a pilot research project to develop a better understanding of the national impact of the 1918-1919 pandemic. Differences between reported and expected influenza deaths will be noted with discussion of the difficulties encountered with interpretation of historical records.

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