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Voices of the Pandemic

March 1918

"On March 30, 1918, the occurrence of eighteen cases of influenza of severe type, from which three deaths resulted was reported at Haskell, Kansas." Public Health Reports, March, 1918

September 1918

"This epidemic started about four weeks ago, and has developed so rapidly that the camp is demoralized and all ordinary work is held up till it has passed....These men start with what appears to be an ordinary attack of LaGrippe or Influenza, and when brought to the Hosp. they very rapidly develop the most viscous type of Pneumonia that has ever been seen. Two hours after admission they have the Mahogany spots over the cheek bones, and a few hours later you can begin to see the Cyanosis extending from their ears and spreading all over the face, until it is hard to distinguish the coloured men from the white. It is only a matter of a few hours then until death comes, and it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate. It is horrible. One can stand it to see one, two or twenty men die, but to see these poor devils dropping like flies sort of gets on your nerves. We have been averaging about 100 deaths per day, and still keeping it up. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a new mixed infection here, but what I don't know."

A physician stationed at Fort Devens outside Boston, late September, 1918

October 1918

"There are six sick in one house and they are in two beds. None of the families in this little community have enough bedding to keep warm nor the clothing needed in sickness. The Red Cross women have taken the entire situation in charge and are using one of the mill dwellings as headquarters. This is furnished with...things needed for preparing nourishment and otherwise caring for the sick. All nurses have been formed in squads and relieve each other day and night. Every precaution is taken to keep the disease from spreading. Masks are worn and disinfectants are used freely."

News and Courier (Charleston), letter from a resident in Cheraw, October 10, 1918

November 1918

"The epidemic has revived in Oak Ridge. There have been seven deaths in that township. Dr. Bulla...advocates staying away from public meetings and reiterates the classic preventive measures: Always use separate drinking cups, dishes and towels, or have them boiled before using after another. People are urged once more to hold a handkerchief over the mouth when sneezing or coughing."

Twin City Sentinel (North Carolina), November 22, 1918

December 1918

Alabama: "Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith two newspaper clippings, one from the Montgomery Advertiser, the other from the Journal. It will be noted that the local press has made capital out of the statement purporting to come from the Surgeon General of the PHS, particularly laying stress upon the sentence, "the country need not fear that the influenza epidemic will return. It has come and gone for good." Inasmuch as Montgomery is at present in the throes of a serious outbreak of influenza the Service representative has been endeavoring to have reasonable restrictions imposed for the protection of well people. All efforts to use the newspapers for educative measures have proved unavailing. In view of the statement from Washington the local newspapers and a few citizens take the stand that the undersigned is out of touch with headquarters and that the measures he has proposed are preposterous. In consequence thereof the handling of the local situation has been rendered much more difficult.

Letter written on December 11, 1918 from Montgomery Alabama to Surgeon General Rupert Blue by Robert Oleson.

January 1919

Referring bureau wire this date indications are influenza will become epidemic here soon unless active measures taken prevent if city will adopt my recommendation relative closing theaters picture shows and other crowding places there will be no necessity for emergency hospital this demonstrated in previous outbreak at present time all places amusement excessively crowded and reports show marked daily increase in cases and deaths emergency hospital this demonstrated in previous outbreak at present time all places amusement excessively crowded and reports show marked daily increase in cases and deaths.

New Orleans Telegram from a PHS Officer to Surgeon General Rupert Blue.

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