Point in History: April 1918
By Kris Leonhardt
The deadliest flu pandemic crisscrossed the nation in 1918. With no effective drugs or vaccines, the infectious disease traveled across America not once, but twice, leaving death in its wake.
Nicknamed the “Spanish Flu,” due to its early wrath in the country of Spain, the highly contagious sickness agonized early pioneers, causing anything from fatigue, to a fever, to pneumonia, while affecting 25 percent of the country’s population.
With no established medicinal cure or prevention, public venues were closed, face masks were implemented, and placards nailed to the front door of infected homes in order to control the outbreak that continued to threaten the nation.
However, when the local Board of Health met in Stevens Point during the final days of April in 1918, discussion did not revolve around the more ominous Spanish Flu.
In previous weeks, the city had been hit by a multitude of diseases. When tallied, the infectious diseases now threatening the area resulted in a total of 142 cases of measles, five cases of scarlet fever, 21 cases of chicken pox, as well as two cases of whopping cough.
With 14 recently confirmed cases of measles, some diagnosed as severe, along with one recent case of scarlet fever, officials were pushed to the point where preventative action was not only required, it was demanded.
Local officials immediately made the decision to close nearly all Stevens Point area schools. An eight-day suspension was promptly declared on most city schools, including the State Normal School, as well as all parochial institutions.
Jackson School, located on the west side of the city, and Grant School, located in the 4th Ward, were not included with no identified risks in those communities.
As placards went up on the homes of those infected with measles within the region, students in the City of Stevens Point enjoyed an unplanned week-long break from studies.
For those residing in infected households, the youth enjoyed a much longer break, while not allowed in public for a total of 15 days.
Even with the precautions declared by local jurisdiction, disease continued to infect and destroy local families. The warm weather and fresh air of the summer months helped suppress the repercussions of the uncontrolled diseases; however, it would be decades before Point, as well as the country, would have a handle on the infectious contagions that included tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and diphtheria.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: PO Box 51, Marshfield, WI, 54449 or email: [email protected]