|The Arcade of Crescent and Tulane Theatres in New Orleans, La would have been closed during the epidemic. [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
On September 14th, the steamship Harold Walker arrived at the New Orleans Quarantine station from Tampico, Mexico. The ship had left Boston on September 1st; influenza was widespread in Boston at that time. Since leaving Boston, three deaths had occurred on board the ship. By the time she ship arrived in New Orleans, several members of the crew were ill, with temperatures ranging from 99.6 to 103.28. All of these patients complained of pain in the head, cough, pains in the chest, back and extremities. Although state officials pointed to the steamship's arrival as the cause of the pandemic in the city, influenza had probably arrived earlier, during the first week of September. Certainly, by the following week, the state was reporting that "cases have been reported from a number of places in the State." By the second week of September, the disease was epidemic at Alexandria, Pineville, Lake Charles and other places. That week, "15,494 cases were reported officially in Louisiana." State officials glumly noted that the disease could be found across the state.
Attempts were made to test a vaccine in New Orleans and on December 12th, a PHS officer sent a telegram to Surgeon General Blue, indicating that the vaccine would be tested at the Louisiana Hospital for the Insane at Jackson. The vaccine was tested there but it proved ineffective.
|During the height of the influenza epidemic, a near empty Royal street would have been the norm. c. 1910 [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
Influenza had been widespread throughout the state during the fall. Cases gradually lessened during the winter and spring. By the summer, the disease had disappeared from the state.
State officials continued to be concerned about influenza long after the pandemic had subsided. In September, 1919, a year after the pandemic, they rigorously tracked and reported all influenza cases (this was a dramatic change from past practices). On September 13, 1919, a PHS officer in New Orleans panicked and sent to the following telegram to Surgeon General Blue: TEN CASES INFLUENZA...DOCTOR KIBBE REPORTS SPREADING RAPIDLY. There is no evidence of a response but the reporting of just ten cases indicates an extreme vigilance on the part of public health experts. State officials and local physicians no longer viewed influenza as a mild disease.