On September 27th, the state reported that "a few cases have been reported from Montgomery and Leake Counties." There were suspected cases in Meridian. By the 4th of October, state officials noted that "epidemics have been reported from a number of places in the State." By October 11th, worried state officials were saying that "the epidemic is spreading rapidly." By the 18th, twenty-six localities reported 1,934 cases; the real number of cases was probably much higher. Influenza was now widespread in nearly all parts of the state. Worse yet, officials believed that the number of cases was steadily increasing. By late October, the number of new cases still numbered in the thousands.
|Eva Streety in West Point, Mississippi would have been unable to visit nearby towns due to the quarantine imposed in West Point. ca. c. 1911. [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
PHS Officer MG Parsons wrote to the Surgeon General on October 26th from West Point, saying "We continue to have new cases, with a few deaths, but as a rule the whites in town are not coming down now. Negroes in rural sections are those giving the necessity for continuing quarantines." As hospitals were segregated, blacks and whites were treated separately.
A quarantine had been established in West Point but by October, residents were agitating to lift the quarantine and travel bans. A circus which had been forced to detrain in West Point was forced to stay in town during the quarantine; the performers, who were obviously eager to leave town, were among the most vocal in calling for lifting the ban. By November 1st, the situation had improved and PHA Officer Parsons wrote again to the Surgeon General, saying that the town had re-opened the schools. However, Parsons was still cautious, nothing that a quarantine "can be reestablished if infection breaks out again."
|Force working in West Point (Miss.) Cotton Mills. c. 1911. [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
Despite the lifting of the ban, the town was not free from infection. There were still many cases, especially in the African American community. There, the situation was compounded by a shortage of healthcare practitioners. An African American nurse was sent from Okolona to assist in caring for patients in West Point. Early on in the epidemic, Parsons had advocated that the PHS assume control of the press and use it to promote propaganda which would assist in the war effort.
In September, Parsons took action. In a letter sent to his superior officers in the PHS, he boasted that he had approved the following for printing in the local press: "[The German] has been tempted to spread sickness and death through germs, and has done so in authenticated cases...Communicable diseases are more strictly a weapon for use well back of the lines, over on French or British or American land. Instances of German attempts and successful attempts too, at poisoning water, turning loose cholera germs, individually innoculating us with tuberculosis and such little acts of kindness are on record."
|These African Americans, including the planter for whom they picked cotton would have been subject to the quarantine imposed in West Point, Mississippi. c.1908. [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, several cases of influenza occurred among personnel of the Forrest County Agricultural High School. For the Public Health Service, this outbreak was especially disappointing as the PHS had begun experimenting with an influenza vaccine, testing it on personnel there. When an outbreak of influenza occurred in early December, the PHS was forced to admit that " there was nothing special in character which differentiated the unvaccinated from the vaccinated." The vaccine was useless in preventing the disease.
Influenza rates peaked in the state during the fall. They gradually declined over the winter and early spring. By the summer, influenza had disappeared from the state.