Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The 1918 Influenza Epidemic claimed more lives than the medieval bubonic plague or the World War I battlefield. *  Dubbed the Spanish flu, there was nothing Iberian about this viral flu; now identified as an H1N1 virus.  Few were aware of the Spring 1918 outbreaks in United States military camps. For reasons of morale and sharing information in war time, there was no initial public health alert. 

When the pandemic’s second wave reached Highland Park, Illinois, Dr. Lloyd Bergen, president of the Board of Health of Highland Park, predicted the epidemic would pass in 10 days, according to the Highland Park Press (September 26, 1918).  It did not.   

By October 4, there were more than 2000 cases in the Highland Park area, including Highwood and Fort Sheridan.  State health officials distributed sneeze masks door-to-door.   The close quarters and movement at the adjacent United States Army induction and training center, Fort Sheridan, served the virus well, moving with and spreading among recruits and returning soldiers.  Only a few miles more north, the Great Lakes Naval Base registered more than 1000 cases. 

The new Highland Park Hospital’s 19 beds suddenly became inadequate.  Chic Exmoor Country Club dropped all its activities and became a hospital, turning over its facilities to the Highland Park Hospital Board.  Twenty-four professional nurses, from the Red Cross and the Great Lakes Naval Base, served more than 100 patients.  The Exmoor chef created appropriate meals for patients and other staff assumed roles to aid the effort.  Exmoor donated it services and location to the community.  Lake Shore and Bob-O-Link Country Clubs also offered their facilities.

Schools and theaters closed; the Illinois Board of Health issued quarantines and activity restrictions.  As winter approached, both the war and the epidemic ended.  Highland Park lost hundreds to the pandemic: newborns, toddlers, mothers, soldiers, and nurses. 


Photo:  Constance Shields (1893-1918) died at Camp Grant, Rockford, Illinios while particpated in nurse's training at the Army Hospital.


*How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America 
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/#su0U6qHmTpUrKzXu.99