“Where Do We Stand on ‘Flu’?” from the New York Times, Dec. 3, 1940
Because there is a lack of reports on influenza throughout the country it is
difficult for officials of the United States Public Health Service to decide
whether or not the California outbreak can be localized. Apparently it can be.
But whether or not, this is the time to review the progress made in handling a
disease which took an estimate twenty millions of lives in 1918 and which may
assume pandemic proportions at any time.
The California epidemic does not even remotely approach terrifying
proportions. There have been comparatively few deaths. If the country is
alarmed it is because there is no practical way of examining every person in an
infected area and quarantining the sick. Moreover, these are the days of
airplane, railway and steamship—the days when epidemics can spread like prairie
Fortunately, California is dealing with a mild type of influenza. So far as
this department can gather there are probably not 6,000 cases at the present
time on the West Coast. The epidemic has receded in the San Diego area, but has
increased somewhat in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
At the last meeting of the American Public Health Association, held in
Detroit last October, Dr. Frank L. Horsfall Jr. of the Rockefeller Foundation’s
International Health Division reported that neither virus nor antibodies could
be associated with the 1940 epidemic of influenza that had swept North
Carolina. “Influenza may not always be caused by one and the same agent,” he
observed. As matters stand it must be said that sometimes a virus is the clear
cause of influenza and that sometimes an unknown cause must be assumed. But
there is no doubt that a virus is now at work in California.