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Wyoming

Wyoming did not report the presence of influenza until the middle of October, long after the Public Health Service had requested that states provide information about influenza. Influenza had, however, hit the state by late September. With thousands of the state’s citizens ill, public health officials were overwhelmed and unable to keep accurate records.

Communities across the state rallied in response to the epidemic. In Sheridan, the women of the Red Cross who had spent the war rolling bandages, sewing hospital garments and surgical dressings, knitting socks, helping soldiers in transit, and collecting used clothing now began carrying for influenza victims. An emergency hospital intended only for influenza patients was created in Sheridan. Eighteen of the hospital's patients died of the disease. When organizers began planning a war memorial for Sheridan, citizens called for the memorial to include the names of the many soldiers from the area who had died, not in combat, but from influenza.

In Thermapolis, religious authorities found themselves hard pressed to care for their congregants. One Catholic priest found that the dispersal of his parishioners was so great that his trips could take up to four days. It was not uncommon for the priest to return to Thermapolis where he was based and discover that some of his parishioners had died and been buried in his absence.

In Sheridan, an emergency hospital opened to care for patients. c. 1909. [Credit: The Library of Congress]
In Sheridan, an emergency hospital opened to care for patients. c. 1909. [Credit: The Library of Congress]

Church services in Casper were cancelled and open-air funerals were held at the graveside. Officials feared that a service in a church would spread the disease. Business owners limited the number of customers allowed in their stores in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease. Customers were also required to wear masks while shopping. Masks did little to prevent the spread of influenza.

When Mrs. Charles Naigny went to Wyoming from Iowa to care for her mother who was ill with influenza, her husband who had remained in Iowa became ill and died of influenza while she was in the state. Children who had been sent out of state to receive schooling found themselves victims of the flu in more ways than one. Alice Dodds, the daughter of a Wyoming rancher who had been sent to a boarding school in Nebraska, contracted the flu. Her parents came to take her home as the teachers had the flu and could not care for her. Dodd later remembered sitting at the train depot, surrounded by people wearing masks.

Although influenza rates peaked in Wyoming during the late fall, the disease remained prevelent throughout the state during the winter and spring of 1919.

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