How the 1957 Flu Pandemic Was Stopped Early in Its Path
On April 17, 1957, Maurice Hilleman realized a pandemic was on its way to the United States. That day, The New York Times reported on a large influenza outbreak in Hong Kong. One detail in particular caught the doctor’s eye: in the long waiting lines for clinics, the paper said “women carried glassy-eyed children tied to their backs.” He quickly got to work, putting out the word that there was a pandemic coming and pushing to develop a vaccine by the time school started again in the fall. The first case of the pandemic had appeared in the Guizhou Province of southwestern China in February 1957. By the time Hilleman read about it in April, the Times reported that an estimated 250,000 Hong Kong residents—or 10 percent of the region’s population—were receiving treatment for it.