The fear at the time was that the swine flu was related to the 1918 pandemic that had killed millions worldwide. That turned out not to be the case. In fact, the virus implicated in 1918 was probably derived from an avian species of the flu virus, Lamb said. But that simply was not known at the time.
The main difference between the last outbreak of swine flu and the current one is that this one spread beyond national borders, affecting countries worldwide.
"The 1976 outbreak was contained within that army base. They basically shut the door, and threw the key away for a while," Lamb said.
Another major difference between the 1976 and 2009 viruses was that the current "swine" flu is actually part swine flu, part human flu and part avian flu. "This is a hybrid," said Dr. George T. DiFerdinando Jr., director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Public Health. "That's unusual. The 1976 virus did not have avian in it."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's still not clear why the 1976 swine flu didn't spread beyond the Fort Dix base. Nor is it known exactly how the virus was introduced.
And while the current version of swine flu is passing from person to person, it's unclear how easily that happened in 1976.
Isolated cases of swine flu in humans are not uncommon, Lamb noted. "Every year, you will find some pig farmer somewhere who gets swine flu," he said. "But it usually doesn't transmit to his family."
In fact, John Quarles, head of microbial and molecular pathogenesis at the Texas A&M Health Science Center in College Station, isolated a swine flu virus on campus a few years ago in a student who had just judged a big swine show in San Antonio.
Quarles took samples from him an
All rights reserved