The influenza epidemic of 1918 was most likely to hit the young and healthy, felling people ages 15 to 45 with swift lethality. The reason for this was due to their own robust immune systems, which launched a torrent of virus-fighting molecules in an immune response known as a ‘cytokine storm’. These molecules latched on to lung tissue, causing lethal damage.
Many who die from COVID-19 suffer from hyper-inflammation with features of cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) and associated acute respiratory distress syndrome (Cron, 2021). Only anti-inflammatory approaches have improved survival in these patients (Cron, 2021).
This lesson is an important one because during this pandemic, many young people have felt protected from COVID-19 due to their strong immune systems. However, we do not yet know what puts people at risk or how our bodies will truly react to this virus. New drugs are coming out to treat threats like cytokine storm. But, in the words of Cron’s (2021) research article, “[k]nowing which cytokine or cytokines to target in severe COVID-19 pneumonia remains a conundrum”.