1918 FLU PANDEMIC

The review gave me some information that I never was privy to until I started work on the reunion and was trying to come up with information about our family. This is the information that came to me from family members. Late 1917 WW1 started J. W. was 23 and Barnett was 20 both eligible for the draftJ.W. was married and had a child but my information is that was not a factor. He was still subject to the draft. Some time during the next 10 months both J.W. and Barnet were called to be examined physically. J. W. failed the physical because of problems resulting from infantile paralysis, but Barnet passed his physical and was awaiting the draft. As fall came in 1918 Barnet was waiting to be inducted into the US Army. As the review below suggest something more horrific happened. The review stated the Army was so devastated by the pandemic that by October draft was suspended. This information is compatible with the information given me by my family.

When October came J. W., Ara & Nellie were living in the Cabin. Ara was ready to give birth her second child. I do not know when the flu really hit the Hammondsville area. The review show the nation was hard hit from Mid-September to Mid-December. On October 15, 1918 Ara gave birth to James Samuel. Ara died of the flu a few days later (I do not have the exact date). James Samuel died November 7, 1917 23 days after his birth. These are the only two deaths that I know by name in the Hammondsville area although Mary Ard Cruse told me that no pregnant woman nor her baby survive the flu in that three months in that area. Also I heard someone say that Dr. Mark Lively was afraid to treat people with this illness. They said he would just they have the flu I cannot help then leave.

After reading this book review I see a little more clearly why we did not hear very much about the pandemic. The newspaper were not too forthright in the way they reported the era in our history. The absence of information on this subject has been very baffling to me. About the other facts that I have been able to put together has been the following: While working in the funeral supply business in Eastern PA in the eighties I was reading an article in the American Funeral Director about this subject they stated 22,000,000 deaths worldwide, noting the World Book stated 20,000,000 death world wide. Now I note the number is 50,000,000 to 100,000,000. As stated above I was working in Eastern PA about 90 miles from Philadelphia. The book notes the city heaviest hit was Philadelphia. The business next door to the place I was working was the Schuylkill Casket Co., a business founded during those three months in 1918 to take care of the death due to the flu. I think I will buy the book and catch up on this subject.

A TIMELY ACCOUNT OF THE 1918 FLU PANDEMIC
Author(s):    Michael Kenney, Globe Correspondent Date: February 11, 2004 Page: D8 Section: Living
The flu season started early last fall, with deaths being reported before many people even thought about getting their shots. By the time they did, there were warnings of a vaccine shortage. Now comes February, the peak month for what the Centers for Disease Control calls ” influenza activity.” Even in a non-epidemic season, the CDC estimates that 36,000 Americans will die from influenza .

All this, plus recent reports of avian flu spreading through Southeast Asian chicken flocks, reaching the United States, and beginning to infect humans, makes John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza ,” a sobering account of the 1918 flu epidemic, compelling and timely. The 1918 pandemic took a staggering toll – worldwide, 50 million to 100 million lives; in the United States, 675,000. More people died from mid-September to early December in 1918 than have died of AIDS in its 24-year scourge, Barry notes.

When the flu struck in 1918, it was killing, Barry writes, “in some new and awful way.” As an internal Red Cross report put it, the flu spread “a fear and panic . . . akin to the terror of the Middle Ages regarding the Black Plague.” Barry’s descriptions of the disease’s ravages are gruesome.

Barry’s is the second major book dealing with the 1918 pandemic in the past five years. The earlier one – which, curiously, Barry does not cite – by New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata, focused on the still ongoing scientific research into its cause.

Barry, on the other hand, is a historian – his book “Rising Tide,” an account of the 1927 Mississippi flood, won the Francis Parkman Prize – and the great strengths of his latest book lie in its accounts of the epidemic’s origin, its devastating spread through US Army training camps, and its impact on civilian life.

While many flu viruses, this season’s included, originate in Asia, Barry offers a persuasive argument that the 1918 epidemic began, mysteriously, in rural Haskell County, Kansas, early that year. “Evidence further suggests,” Barry writes, “that this virus traveled east across the state to a huge army base.”

At Camp Devens in Ayer, as an Army report put it, “the influenza . . . occurred as an explosion.” On a single day in September, 1,543 men reported ill with influenza .

The situation was similar at other camps – at Camp Custer in Michigan, 2,800 troops reported ill in one day; at Camp Grant in Illinois, more than 100 men died in a single day in October, and the camp’s commander killed himself as the toll passed 500.

Initially, the Army refused to stop shipping troops from one camp to another or overseas on troop ships that became death ships. When the Army’s provost marshal canceled the October draft order, Barry writes, “he did so only because he recognized that the disease was utterly overwhelming and creating total chaos in the cantonments.”

Inevitably, the disease spread into the civilian population. As Barry writes, “The war had come home.”

“It was a common practice in 1918,” Barry writes, “for people to hang a [ribbon] of crepe on the door to mark a death in the house. There was crepe everywhere.” In Philadelphia – where 254 people died on Oct. 5 and 289 the next day – a man said that on one street, it “looked like every other house had crepe over the door.”

In Washington, a man remembered, “it kept people apart. . . . People were afraid to kiss one another, people were afraid to eat with one another, they were afraid to have anything that made contact because that’s how you got the flu.” A New Haven man, recalling “the same isolating fear,” wrote that when someone fell sick, instead of family and friends “bringing food over. . . . nobody was coming in, nobody would bring food in, nobody came to visit.”

Barry criticizes the press for its failure to report what was happening. He cites a number of instances when a newspaper reported the onset of influenza in another state or city, but did not report deaths in its own city. “As terrifying as the disease was,” Barry writes, “the press made it worse. They terrified by making little of it, for what officials and the press said bore no relationship to what people saw and touched and smelled and endured.”

It would seem improbable to see the 1918 pandemic, as Barry does, as “a case study” with lessons for the present. After all, we now have vaccines, which did not exist in 1918 – even if they must await the appearance of a virus to be created. And medical reporting is now responsible and hard-hitting. Still, the CDC estimates that in a new epidemic with a virus as deadly as that of in 1918, the US death toll “will most likely fall between 89,000 and 300,000

This book review came to me via Doline from the Courier Journal, but they did not put on line so you with note it came from the Boston Globe.
Author: harold