Texas A&M University Study: El Nino & 1918 Flu Pandemic Linked

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Sept. 15 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve linked the 1918-1919 El Nino with the high mortality of the influenza pandemic of 1918.

El Nino is the periodic warming of surface waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean that affects global weather systems. The El Nino of 1918-1919 — among the 20th century’s strongest — coincided with the start of the influenza pandemic that scientists say infected more than half a billion people around the world, killing 25 million to 100 million individuals. That H1N1 pandemic, often called the Spanish Flu, is the same strain formerly called swine flu that is of concern today.

Researchers from Texas A&M University said they used computer modeling to conduct a simulation of global ocean surface temperatures that occurred early during the 20th century. Results show the 1918-1919 El Nino was just as strong as two of the strongest ever observed — the El Nino’s of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998.

Professor Benjamin Giese, a study author, said the findings suggest the number of influenza deaths in India during 1918 was high because El Nino led to a drought-caused famine that killed people already weakened by the flu.

The study appears in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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