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The ghost of pandemics past: revisiting two centuries of influenza in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies. (Britta Lundgren)
2016 (English)In: Medical Humanities, ISSN 1468-215X, E-ISSN 1473-4265, medhum-2016-011023Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Previous influenza pandemics are usually invoked in pandemic preparedness planning without a thorough analysis of the events surrounding them, what has been called the ‘configuration’ of epidemics. Historic pandemics are instead used to contrast them to the novelty of the coming imagined plague or as fear of a ghost-like repetition of the past. This view of pandemics is guided by a biomedical framework that is ahistorical and reductionist. The meaning of ‘pandemic’ influenza is in fact highly ambiguous in its partitioning of pandemic and seasonal influenza. The past 200 years of influenza epidemics in Sweden are examined with a special focus on key social structures—households, schools, transportations and the military. These are shown to have influenced the progression of influenza pandemics. Prevailing beliefs around influenza pandemics have also profoundly influenced intervention strategies. Measuring long-term trends in pandemic severity is problematic because pandemics are non-linear events where the conditions surrounding them constantly change. However, in a linearised view, the Spanish flu can be seen to represent a historical turning point and the H1N1 2009 pandemic not as an outlier, but following a 100-year trend of decreasing severity. Integrating seasonal and pandemic influenza, and adopting an ecosocial stance can deepen our understanding and bring the ghost-like pandemic past to life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. medhum-2016-011023
Keyword [sv]
influensa, pandemi, historia, epidemiologi
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Other Humanities
Research subject
Epidemiology; Medical Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-128601DOI: 10.1136/medhum-2016-011023OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-128601DiVA: diva2:1057057
Projects
Epidemier, vaccination och berättelsers makt. Kulturell dynamik och förebyggande av smittsamma sjukdomar
Funder
Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, 2012.0097
Available from: 2016-12-16 Created: 2016-12-08 Last updated: 2017-03-30

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
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  • asciidoc
  • rtf