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1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic

by Jim Moran, Longmeadow Historical Society, Board member
June 18,
2020

The influenza outbreak struck in January of 1918. Though it lasted only 15 months, it killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. More than 675,000 Americans died, predominantly previously healthy young adults, ages 20 to 40. In the Springfield area, there were 7,490 cases and 614 deaths.

The 'tent city' shown in the photo below was established at Forest Park in Springfield during the influenza epidemic of 1918. Set up by the city with help from the Massachusetts state militia, the tent city was used as a quarantine area during the outbreak.


Below are excerpts from the 1918 and 1919 Longmeadow Annual Town Reports.  Longmeadow schools were closed for a brief time in late September 1918.  The Board of Health reported 75 cases of influenza with 7 deaths in 1918.  The Town of Longmeadow escaped the worst of the pandemic that was struck the United States and the rest of the world.

1918 LONGMEADOW ANNUAL TOWN REPORT

Board of Health

Our community has been visited during the past year with the usual contagious diseases, but the general health of the community at large has been good. The epidemic of influenza that swept over the country was quite successfully combated; seventy -five cases being reported with seven deaths; total of other contagious diseases reported, forty.

School Committee

Enforced Interruption of School Work

Shortage of coal during February of 1918 necessitated closing the Center (School) buildings for some weeks. During the height of the Influenza epidemic in September we again ordered the schools closed, to prevent, so far as possible, the spread of the disease.  These conditions have made it doubly imperative that our pupils should apply themselves to make good the loss of time. May we here urge the parents ,to use their influence to prevent unnecessary absences from school and to eliminate entirely the word " tardy" from our records.

1919 LONGMEADOW ANNUAL TOWN REPORT

Board of Health

The general health of. the community during the past year has been good. The following cases of contagious diseases were reported: fifteen cases of influenza, twelve of chicken pox, two of whooping cough, two of scarlet fever, two of pulmonary tuberculosis, one of diphtheria, one of typhoid fever, a total of thirty -five cases, two of which resulted in death.

For additional information about the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic read the Smithsonian Magazine article entitled: How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America.  It is interesting to compare the two pandemics separated by 100+ years from both a medical and political perspective.

Sources: Longmeadow Annual Town Reports- 1918/ 1919. Annual Town Reports (1855-present) are available online and are full text searchable.


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Longmeadow Historical Society

697 Longmeadow Street
Longmeadow, MA 01106
(413) 567-3600
LongmeadowHS@gmail.com
 
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