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How Did the Inuit People Help to Explain Spanish Flu?

During the Spanish-Flu pandemic, an Inuit woman whom Dr. Johan Hultin calls “Lucy,” died of the illness. Eighty years later, her preserved body answered the question: What was the source of Spanish Flu?

Hultin had attempted to answer the question decades before, but he was not able to recover enough tissue from the Inuit bodies he had examined. Lucy, whose remains were perserved in the Alaskan permafrost, had lungs which were still in tact.  

Removing Lucy's lungs, Dr. Hultin sent them to a pathologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. There, Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger and his team discovered that the killer virus, which caused Spanish Flu, was most likely an “avian influenza.”  In other words, the virus originated in birds.

Do you think that it is acceptable to disinter human remains to look for answers the way Dr. Hultin did? Why, or why not?

Before he began his quest to find useable tissue from Spanish-Flu victims, Dr. Hultin received permission from Inuit tribal elders. Does that change your answer to the prior question? Why, or why not?

Do you think it is important that we now have more answers about the virus which caused the Spanish-Flu pandemic? Why, or why not?

Do you think it is dangerous for scientists to work with a virus as lethal as the one which caused Spanish Flu? Explain your answer.


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