Event Date
1957
Included in All Dates?
Yes
Unique ID
100808
Associated Media Filename

000802.jpg 000801.jpg, 000817.mov

Maurice Hilleman and his colleagues at WRAIR identified a new influenza A virus, Type A2, Asian influenza, that caused a pandemic.

Hilleman noticed news reports of a severe influenza in Hong Kong. The number of cases and their description led him to think that a new type of influenza was emerging and that a pandemic threatened.

Hilleman and his team obtained a sample of the virus from a U.S. serviceman. They soon determined that most people lacked antibody protection from the new influenza virus. Only a few elderly people who had survived the influenza pandemic of 1889-1890 showed antibody response to the new virus.

Hilleman jump-started vaccine production by sending virus samples to manufacturers and urging them to develop the vaccine in four months. Worldwide, from 1957-1958, about 2 million people died from Asian flu, with about 70,000 deaths in the United States. Some predicted that the U.S. death toll would have reached 1 million without the vaccine that Hilleman called for. Health officials widely credited that vaccine with saving many lives.

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