Pandemic: Spanish flu hit Minot with real force in 1918

Eloise Ogden/MDN A World War I exhibit in the James E. Sperry Gallery at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in Bismarck includes information about the Spanish flu that hit North Dakota in 1918.

Schools, churches, public gathering places, theaters and other places in Minot closed because of the Spanish flu pandemic that hit Minot with great force in the fall of 1918.

“The Red Cross Society gave very efficient aid in this work by furnishing women to the needy to act in this capacity of nurses. The hospitals limited the surgical operations to emergency cases and opened their doors to the ‘flu’ patients, as did some of the physician(s) who had small private hospitals used in their specialties,” said Dr. Charles K. Allen, city health officer, reported in the State of North Dakota 1920 Report of the State Board of Health for the Biennial Period Ending June 30, 1920.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota, in an exhibit about World War I, in the James E. Sperry Gallery at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck, includes information about the Spanish flu.

The disease broke out in different parts of the world near the end of World War I. The disease hit North Dakota “with great intensity” in fall 1918, according to the exhibit information. Because many doctors were serving in Europe, North Dakota’s communities had few medically trained people to help take care of the sick.

Allen, in his report, said during the winters of 1919-1920, the ‘flu’ struck Minot without the former force, most cases being mild forms. Very few deaths occurred as a result thereof.

“The Board of Health and the Red Cross Chapter of Minot took steps to ward off the severity experienced the preceding year, by having circulars printed and distributed, educating the public concerning the influenza symptoms, treatment, precautions and ‘DON’TS’ and by regulating theatres, churches, pool halls, dance halls and any public gathering. The intensity and severity of the last outbreak was rather a negative quantity in comparison with the result of the 1918-1919 outbreak,” according to Allen.

The federal government’s Public Health Service did not keep good records on the Spanish flu and state health agencies were overwhelmed by the situation, North Dakota Studies reported there are few accurate records on how many people came down with the flu and how many people died in North Dakota. N.D. Studies did note the Spanish flu outbreak hurt families and interfered with business.

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