Racial Disparities in Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in United States Cities:
Cristina is a student at Southeastern Norway and has Professor Ole Georg Moseng as her advisor. She will, however, be affiliated with PANSOC for the academic year 2021-22. Please read more below about her exciting project on the terrible pandemic death toll on a Norwegian naval ship in 1918.
Tell us about your project:
My master´s thesis will address how the 1918 influenza pandemic influenced morbidity and mortality on the Norwegian naval ship “Kong Sverre” who received 500 new recruits in October 1918. This particular crew suffered a massive loss during the autumn 1918, despite it being an exercising military ship in a neutral country. I will use rich quantitative and qualitative source material to study why almost one in three of those who fell symptomatically ill died.
You are starting a project about a historical pandemic in the middle of a current pandemic. How does that feel?
It is interesting to learn more about a historical pandemic, while at the same time live through an evolving pandemic. There are both differences and similarities between the 1918 influenza and COVID-19. While young adults were hardest affected in 1918, it is the elderly who have the highest risk of a severe disease in 2020. Just as in 1918, crowded conditions and lack of early interventions also resulted in massive spread disease in 2020. Examples are massive spread of COVID-19 among tourists in crowded after-ski bars in the Alps, on cruise ships in Japan and at meat packing plants in the USA.
Why are you doing a masters in Norway and with PANSOC?
I´m currently on the last year of my history teacher education at the University of Southeastern Norway. Because I wanted to write a thesis on the 1918 influenza, my Professor Ole Georg Moseng advised me to contact Svenn-Erik Mamelund at PANSOC. After coming up with the idea to study the catastrophic case of Kong Sverre, I was happy to accept an affiliation with PANSOC
What are your plans for a future dream-project in academia?
I would love to continue doing pandemic research. It would be exciting to analyze outbreaks of COVID-19 on naval ships to make a comparative study of the pandemic disease burden in the military in 1918 and the current pandemic.
It would also be thrilling to do a comparative study on other aspects of the two pandemics, such as how social inequality in health would affect the outcomes of lethality in both pandemics.
It is a great pleasure for us to announce that Carla Louise Hughes, a masters student in International Social Welfare and Health Policy and PANSOC-affiliated student is among the three finalists for Student of the year. Student of the year is awarded to a student who has excelled in their efforts for the study and learning environment, and has been a role model for other students. The winner will be chosen and the prize will be awarded by the end of August.
You can read more about the 3 candidates here News – Student – minside (oslomet.no) and also about Carla’s masters project here: Meet our new Masters Student: Carla Louise Hughes – Centre for Research on Pandemics & Society (PANSOC) (oslomet.no)
We at PANSOC have been co-authoring a preprint that might help answer that question using 100 years of data from three countries including Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. We looked at age adjusted monthly estimates of excess mortality to show that in 2020 these countries recorded highest monthly excess and all-cause mortality levels driven by an infectious disease since the 1918 pandemic.
The preprint can be downloaded here 37204759 (medrxiv.org)
I kronikken Vi bør forske mer på tidligere pandemier – Morgenbladet – forteller Vibeke Narverud Nyborg og senterleder Svenn-Erik Mamelund hvorfor det er så viktig å forske på historske pandemier og kanskje særlig Spanskesyken i 1918. Kan det til og med hende at Spanskesyken var med på å bygge opp den norske velferdsstaten?
Our webinar series is returning for the fall semester! Please join us for the first talk on August 19 at 1600 CET. Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, University of Minnesota, and Martin Eiermann, University of Berkeley will present: “Racial Disparities in Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in United States Cities”
The 1918 influenza pandemic stands out for its extreme virulence and unusual age pattern of mortality. A third feature merits the same level of scrutiny and scientific prominence: against a historical backdrop of extreme racial health inequality, the pandemic produced strikingly small ratios of nonwhite to white influenza and pneumonia mortality in the United States. We provide the most complete account of these racial disparities in U.S. cities in 1918 to date, showing that they were almost uniformly small across cities. We also advance and evaluate four potential explanations for this result, including racial differences in: (1) socio-demographic factors like segregation, (2) exposure to city-level implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), (3) exposure to the spring 1918 “herald wave,” and (4) early-life exposures to other influenza strains that could have resulted in differences in immunological vulnerability to the 1918 flu. While we find little evidence for explanations related to residential segregation, NPIs, or partial immunity induced by the herald wave, our results suggest that racial variation in early-life exposure to influenza—in particular the 1890-1892 pandemic—likely shrank racial disparities during the 1918 pandemic. We also find suggestive evidence consistent with a behavioral response to the herald wave. In providing new evidence of the patterns and potential drivers of racial inequality in mortality during the 1918 pandemic, our study underscores the importance of considering interactions between the natural history of a particular microbial agent and the social history of the populations it infects in the study of infectious disease patterns.
We are pleased to welcome Vibeke Narverud Nyborg, Associate Professor at University of South-Eastern Norway (USN), as a new affiliate with PANSOC for the academic year 2021-22. She is a historian, has a PhD in the History of Medicine and Health and will do research on “Pandemics and national regulations”, funded by USN. Her exiting project is described in her own words below:
“Through my PhD work I came across many of the national health regulations that developed as part of the modernization processes that occurred in Norway during the 19th century. Most of these regulations came as a response to specific diseases that threatened the health and wellbeing of the population. In addition, a national health regulation for all areas, the Norwegian Health Care Act (Sunnhetsloven), was adopted by the Parliament in 1860. These regulations were developed to secure the population from infectious diseases in addition to focusing on preventive health measures and public health as part of developing into a modern society. Most of these regulations were in use when the “Spanish” Influenza Pandemic reached Norway in 1918.
However, although the “Spanish” Influenza took more lives over a shorter period of time than any other disease during the 19th and early 20th century, no specific regulation was adopted for the “Spanish” Influenza Pandemic. It will hence be relevant to investigate if any of the already approved regulations specifically adopted to prevent epidemic diseases from spreading, primarily based on non-pharmaceutical measures aiming to secure the healthy from the sick, were considered part of the measures taken in an attempt to prevent the Spanish Influenza from spreading nationally and in different local societies. To the best of my knowledge, little if no research at all has been conducted on this area when it comes to regulations and pandemics in a Norwegian context, and there is also scarce research done on this in an international context.
As the final work of my PhD was highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken nationally, highly affecting all persons’ lives and also my own and my PhD colleagues’ research, I started to be interested in the connection between regulations and infectious pandemics, such as COVID-19 and the “Spanish” Influenza. I soon discovered that little research has been done in order to investigate if and how national regulations were used during the “Spanish” Influenza pandemic in 1918-1920, whether local measures were used and whether they had any effect on morbidity and mortality. Another area of investigation that seems to be scarce is if the “Spanish” Influenza had any impact on the health care regulations that were developed after the effect of the pandemic was known. Did the pandemic of 1918-1920 have any effect on future risk planning and legislation to secure the population in a similar situation?
I look very much forward to working on this topic as part of my research activities in the academic year of 2021-22 and am happy to be part of the PANSOC team to explore and learn more about pandemics and society from the other experts working in this research environment”.
Alt tatt i betraktning, hvor tilfreds er du med livet i dag? Dette spørsmålet svarte norske arbeidstakere på i 2019 og deretter i 2020, midt under pandemien. Nan Zou Bakkeli har sammenlignet svarene. Det er neppe overraskende at rike er lykkeligere enn fattige, friske mer tilfredse enn syke og folk i familier lykkeligere enn enslige. Men hvordan har det gått med den store gruppen nordmenn som ikke har alle disse lykkefaktorene på plass?
Les intervju med Nan om forskningen her: Mindre fornøyd med livet under korona – OsloMet
The influenza pandemics of 1918 and 2009, as well as the ongoing COVID-19, show that Indigenous people have extremely high risk of severe disease outcomes, but the reasons for this vulnerability are unclear. This week, the head of PANSOC, Svenn-Erik Mamelund, will hold a talk on Indigenous people & Pandemics for the “Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch, Division for Inclusive Social Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, at the United Nations in New York”
The influenza pandemic hit the native communities in Alaska hard. These children in an orphanage in Nushagak, Alaska, lost their parents. Summer of 1919. Source: Alaska Historical Library
In August 2022 to June 2023, Mamelund will also lead a CAS-project on this topic. You can read more here:
This new study by our new post-doc Margarida Pereira suggests that the economic crisis in 2008 enhanced the social inequalities regarding childhood obesity in Portugal. These results aid the development of evidence-based strategies to lessen the social inequities in health outcomes created by the crisis.
The paper is published in the journal Public Health and can be found here: The economic crisis impact on the body mass index of children living in distinct urban environments – ScienceDirect