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Who Discovered Influenza?

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The Influenza (flu) disease was not discovered by a single person or a research team. Scientists and physicians from ancient times have contributed to the discovery of the influenza disease. Records of the influenza disease can be found from various ancient civilizations, all throughout history. The word “Influenza” actually comes from an Italian word, which means “to influence”, which describes the origin and discovery of this disease.

HippocratesHippocrates provided a clear description on illnesses and stayed away from the norm of the time, which was to associate illnesses with some kind of supernatural incident or even magic.

It was a supernatural disease

Ancient civilization mentioned the disease but didn’t discover the actual cause of it because they thought it was a supernatural disease. According to ancient records, influenza was thought to be caused by unfavorable astrological influences, which explains why they named it influenza. The description of the disease and the symptoms were unclear, exaggerated and incorrect in most of the records found from the ancient or medieval times.

Hippocrates made the first accurate description

The first person to give a clear and an accurate description of the symptoms of influenza was Hippocrates. In his works, the Greek philosopher, Hippocrates, described various types of diseases from the medical perspective and influenza was one of them. For his pioneering work, he is considered as the “Father of Modern Medicine”. He was born in 460 BC and died in 370 BC.

Discovery of the Influenza Virus

The association of the influenza virus with the disease was first discovered in 1933. Christopher Andrewes, Wilson Smith, and Patrick Laidlaw, three prominent physicians of that time made this discovery. They were researching on an appropriate host for the propagation when the discovered and identified the virus that causes influenza in human beings. The influenza disease on animals and the virus responsible for them were also discovered at about the same time.

Other types of influenza virus

  1. Discovery of H1N1 virus
  2. Discovery of Swine Flu

Hot debate: Should you get a flu shot?