Saturday, August 3, 2013

Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919

Spring 1918-Spring 1919: Three waves of highly virulent and fatal influenza sweep the country. The fall-winter wave is the deadliest for the US. The pandemic kills millions and devastates entire communities. 



Influenza hit Arizona in late September. The disease probably reached Phoenix first, spreading outward to the rest of the state during the end of September. By October 11th, Flagstaff, Winslow and Holbrook were reporting epidemics. As influenza spread, public health officials were quickly overwhelmed. The epidemic peaked in the state during the first week of November; that week, the state reported deaths from influenza which were four times the state’s annual average.

City officials and residents reacted to the spread of the disease with alarm. Many Arizonans insisted that the disease was spread by dogs. In Phoenix, as police and city residents killed dogs in an attempt to prevent the spread of influenza, the local paper reported that “Phoenix will soon be dogless.” Schools, theaters and other public areas were also closed for three months.

In both Tucson and Phoenix, police arrested residents who ventured out in public without a gauze mask. Officials believed that masks prevented the spread of the disease and had required people to wear these to prevent the spread of the disease. When they passed these requirements, city officials and scientific experts were unaware of the fact that influenza is spread by a virus which is small enough to pass through a gauze mask.

The disease struck the Navajos especially hard. Joseph Schmedding, a trader, who entered a Navajo reservation a few weeks after the epidemic had erupted said that he found 30 Indians, young and old, lying dead in abandoned hogans. In Tuba City, the school was converted into a hospital and the wife of a Navajo trader wrote “for miles around every good winter hogan was deserted [because people feared the infection]. The living moved out into the rain and found what shelter they could in temporary camps.”

The economy also suffered. By late October, reports indicated that mining productivity for the state was off as a result of the pandemic.

After peaking in early November, the disease slowly waned during the late fall and early winter. By the late spring, it had begun to disappear from the state.

From:  United States Department of Health & Human Services


27 March 1919 - St. Johns Herald

 Apache County News Related to the Flu



Expense List for the Spanish Flu - St. Johns - 1919

 I found this original sheet of paper in the Archives of the Museum today.  It is what got me thinking about Apache County and the Spanish Flu.  Edition after edition of the St. Johns Herald & Apache News during this time period list deaths in the area from the Influenza.  I'm sure this was during the period when St. Johns was worst hit.

The aforementioned Dr. Bouldin is not on this list - but it is dated February of 1919 and the doc didn't return from France until June of 1919.  He is mentioned in articles related to the flu after that time.

4 March 1920 - St. Johns Herald

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