The open-air treatment of pandemic influenza

Am J Public Health. 2009 Oct;99 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S236-42. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.134627. Epub 2009 May 21.

Abstract

The H1N1 "Spanish flu" outbreak of 1918-1919 was the most devastating pandemic on record, killing between 50 million and 100 million people. Should the next influenza pandemic prove equally virulent, there could be more than 300 million deaths globally. The conventional view is that little could have been done to prevent the H1N1 virus from spreading or to treat those infected; however, there is evidence to the contrary. Records from an "open-air" hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, suggest that some patients and staff were spared the worst of the outbreak. A combination of fresh air, sunlight, scrupulous standards of hygiene, and reusable face masks appears to have substantially reduced deaths among some patients and infections among medical staff. We argue that temporary hospitals should be a priority in emergency planning. Equally, other measures adopted during the 1918 pandemic merit more attention than they currently receive.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Hospitals, Special*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / therapy*
  • Influenza, Human / transmission