Patrick Berche

Should We Still Be Afraid of the Flu? Publication date : February 9, 2012

Patrick Berche is a professor of immunology at Paris-Descartes Faculty and Chief of Microbiology at Necker Children’s Hospital, in Paris. He is the author of numerous works on biological threats.

Influenza is rarely life threatening but it can be worrying and distressing. The history of influenza — from the virus’s alleged origins, to medieval epidemics, to the Spanish flu of 1918 and, finally, to the 2009 pandemic — has taught us much about the origins of epidemics and their resurgence, about human behaviour and collective fears, about germs and their propagation, about vaccination…
The history of influenza is also a story of human adventures and testimonials, of caregivers and discoverers. It tells us a lot about politics, about collective behaviour, conflicts of interest, fantasies and rumours.
Why do certain epidemics suddenly flare up worldwide? How do pandemics develop? Can they be predicted? How far do we have to take epidemiological research in order to understand what triggers the appearance of a virus?

• A fascinating history lesson about influenza, from the Middle Ages to the present.
• Should influenza still to be feared today? Why are we afraid of it?
• A lively discussion on the pros and cons of epidemiological research.