Reflections: The 1918 Spanish Influenza

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

“All colds, however slight, should be treated as possible attacks of influenza.

“Patients affected by colds should stay home and sterilize discharges from the nose and throat; avoid feeling or spreading fear of the disease; avoid crowds; regulate bodily functions and keep them so; avoid the breath of expelled secretions from people suffering from colds; wash out the nose and throat two or three times daily by a nasal spray or douche and by a gargle with a normal salt solution;

“All those in attendance on patients with influenza should wear masks as are provided by the Red Cross Nursing Bureau and clothing should be warm and dry, food simple and easily digested and drink water freely.” — From William Lincoln, Medical Advisor.

No, this was not the current coronavirus, but it was printed in the October 1918 Morrow County Sentinel regarding the 1918 Spanish Influenza.

This influenza first entered Morrow County at the end of September, 1918.

There was no county health department then and each village and township had an appointed health officer. These officers, in order to prevent the flu from spreading, closed the county schools, churches and other places of public assembly.

Gatherings of more than six people in any one place even on streets, were prohibited. Homes with flu victims were quarantined.

During one week in October, 1918, ninety-nine new flu cases were reported countywide. In Sparta, seven of eight members of one family were sickened by the flu in a single week; but all recovered.

The flu killed both the young and old. An 18-year-old girl in Mount Gilead died on Christmas Day. High school principals in Cardington and Mount Gilead died from flu complications. A 24-year-old Mount Gilead woman who had given birth just days before, succumbed to it. Many of the county’s victims were elderly.

The flu waned in November that year, allowing for all flu bans to be lifted. People went to the polls on election day and on Nov. 11, county residents took to the streets to celebrate the end of World War I.

Life began to return to normal but in December, the Spanish flu roared back to life in Morrow County with a vengeance, causing more deaths. Flu bans were reinstated, merchants in Mount Gilead were ordered to close at 6 p.m. and daily Christmas services in churches were cancelled.

By January 1, 1919, all schools in the county were back in session but the Spanish flu continued in Morrow County on a lesser scale until April, 1919.

As bad as the flu was at home, it was raging in the nation’s military camps with about a quarter of the country’s flu fatalities being soldiers in training camp. In the United States it is estimated the Spanish flu killed millions of people during 1918-1919. About 60 Morrow County residents succumbed to the Spanish Influenza.

What is that old saying “What goes around, comes around?” Hopefully, this coronavirus will go the way of the Spanish Influenza — the sooner the better.

70 years ago: Although no homes were under quarantine, colds, flu, mumps and chicken pox were rampant county wide this month; Joe Dick opened a beauty shop in rooms above the Snack Bar downtown.

60 years ago: The Mom’s Sports Club, formed to support the Cardington School’s athletic programs, was organized with Mrs. Richard Reinehr elected president; Mrs. John Wetzel, vice president; Mrs Robert Long, secretary and Mrs. Henry Breckner, treasurer.

50 years ago: John H. Wilson of Cardington, was named to the Morrow County Draft Board.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

Reach us at [email protected]

Reach us at [email protected]