India Battles Influenza: A Case Study Analysis of the 1918 and 1968 Pandemics

by Natasha Sarkar

Jan 1, 2013
Influenza, in its pandemic form, makes for a particularly informative historiographical case study. This disease, the severity of which is generally overlooked, continues to thwart our efforts to completely control it. What is even more remarkable is that the history of influenza in India has never been attempted, considering that the Great Flu of 1918 was alone responsible for an estimated twenty million deaths in the country. In 1968, a new virus that originated in China and spread rapidly via Hong Kong, was called the 'Hong Kong flu'. This pandemic prompted a flurry of new research on influenza epidemiology, but hardly any studies examine the 1968 flu pandemic, let alone a focused work on India. My research, therefore, aims to develop a comprehensive narrative of India's tryst with influenza in the wake of the 1918 and 1968 pandemics; a study that seeks to examine notions of power and control in terms of management of epidemics. Matters concerning public health would, of course, be crucial to an understanding of the interactions between the state, the medical profession and the public.
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