Forum marks 100th anniversary of Philly flu pandemic

Researchers are working to develop a universal flu vaccine that will provide long-term protection.

Mark Abrams
September 20, 2018 - 5:02 pm

Dreamstime

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A forum on fighting flu in Philadelphia convened on the Penn State campus at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia on Thursday. 

The naval site was the source of a flu pandemic that hit the city 100 years ago.

"More than 20,000 people died in the city and about 14,000 of those people died within six weeks," said Jane Boyd, who is assembling an exhibit on the influenza pandemic for the Mütter Museum.

Panelists at a GSK-sponsored forum at the Penn State Navy Yard campus discuss the 1918 flu pandemic that struck Philadelphia.
Mark Abrams/KYW Newsradio

"It was brought down here in early September of 1918 by sailors and it spread from here — from the Navy Yard — throughout the city," she added.

GSK researchers are working to develop a universal flu vaccine that will provide long-term protection.

But Len Friedland, who is connected to the pharmaceutical company's vaccine arm, said that's likely still years away.

In the meantime, he said this is the best they have to offer.

"It offers tremendous benefit," said Friedland. "[It] prevents deaths, hospitalizations and lost work."

Jennifer Pool Miller, an advocate for Families Fighting Flu, warned of the quick dangers of influenza. Her 5-year-old daughter contracted the virus and was hospitalized.

"It's a serious respiratory disease, but the positive message here is it's vaccine-preventable," she added.