Author of New Book on the 1918 Flu Pandemic to Speak at The Wistar Institute

Author of New Book on the 1918 Flu Pandemic to Speak at The Wistar Institute

February 15, 2004

(PHILADELPHIA— February 16, 2004)—Though most people think of the flu as an innocuous disease—little more than a cold—the 1918 influenza pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide. The 1918 flu caused more deaths in 24 weeks than AIDS has caused in 24 years, more deaths in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages caused in a century. Scientists today remain concerned that another virulent strain of flu could emerge and continue to study the 1918 virus for clues to what makes the flu occasionally turn deadly.

Award-winning author John M. Barry will discuss his new book on the 1918 flu pandemic, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, on Thursday, February 19, at 7 p.m. at The Wistar Institute. The event kicks off Wistar’s newly established author series, which features books about science and medicine. Barry’s book discusses not only the 1918 flu outbreak but also the efforts of the scientists and physicians who combated it.

The story is particularly relevant to Philadelphia, which was one of the first places where the 1918 flu emerged in its lethal form. Indeed, Philadelphia was the hardest-hit city in the U.S. by the end of the pandemic, with nearly 5,000 residents dying in one week alone and bodies piling up in the streets to be carted off to mass graves.

John M. Barry is the author of four previous books, including the acclaimed Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood and How it Changed America, which was a New York Times Notable Book and won the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman Prize, the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, and the Lillian Smith Award, among others. He is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Tulane University.

The Joseph Fox Bookshop, an independent bookstore located at 1724 Sansom St., will be providing books for sale at the Wistar event. The Great Influenza was published by Viking on February 9, 2004.

Editor’s note: John M. Barry will be in Philadelphia for the February 19 event at Wistar and is available for phone interviews on other days. Call Wistar Public Relations at 215-898-3943 or 215-898-3716 to arrange an interview.

The Wistar Institute is an independent nonprofit biomedical research institution dedicated to discovering the causes and cures for major diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases. Founded in 1892 as the first institution of its kind in the nation, The Wistar Institute today is a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center - one of only eight focused on basic research. Discoveries at Wistar have led to the development of vaccines for such diseases as rabies and rubella, the identification of genes associated with breast, lung, and prostate cancer, and the development of monoclonal antibodies and other significant research technologies and tools.