SHOW FULL TEXT
Support for Michigan radio comes from hop cat. The Michigan-based craft beer bar and grill committed to showcasing Michigan made beer-cider and at 6 locations across the state and throughout the Midwest hub cat.com .
Very interesting occurrence in 1918 as called World War One. And so you had soldiers cheek-by-jowl in trenches and in barracks in the European theater and of course in America you had young men are mobilizing to go to war and they were in various camps that were outside major cities around the country and then traveling by train and then steamship to Europe . So , there was quite a vector and then you just have regular travel train travel automobile travel and people coughing and seizing unwanted other at simple as that .
So did medical experts at the time have any idea what they were dealing with.
Well they knew it was flu , influenza in fact no influenza is really what it is everyone uses the word flu for a cold and that’s not the case. Real influenza makes you sick as a dog , it is . He has real components of coughing , sneezing , chest pain , muscle pain high fevers and even delirium , are they knew as influenza . But they know very little about viruses . It was just learning about bacteria so they didn’t know how to handle it other than basic nursing care taking care of people and bad and so on giving them fluids by mouth not Ivy that that did not exist yet . And basically nursing them back to health . But they had no real vaccines or antivirals or any medications of any sort . In fact , most people who die didn’t die of flu per se . They died of bacterial pneumonia , which was a secondary complication to having the flu , influenza .
Mark , do we know exactly when and where the Spanish flu arrived in Michigan.
We have a good sense of it but again records at this time are great. One of the earliest records . I saw her mentions of it was actually a hundred years ago to this day . Detroit Health Commissioner James inches was warning Detroit is at this . This was going to be coming to Detroit . So a couple of days later at a naval base downriver . They were the first reported cases . And then it and then just ballooned after that .
So I , that was my next question , did it spread quickly across Michigan.
Yeah , I think it spread across the country. Within a week or 2 . The youngsters reported all over the country . So again , how quickly did it spread across the state , probably days or weeks into the UP there’s so many wide ranging reports of this flu in in the UP it’s hard to tell , but quickly in short .
Right , right. And Dr. Mark how did people know if they were second how quick weather typical symptoms and how quickly could it kill .
Well , it did spread rather rapidly. You probably September 20th it actually was at a naval base right outside of the River Rouge plant of the Ford factory , but as I were seeing earlier influenza is not a common cold , you are really very ill and so , while there were no cultures viral cultures to prove that it was flew with these were really would be called today influenza-like illnesses . The fact that they were so sick with respiratory symptoms , the levels of fever , I mean high fevers 1 or higher . Very bad muscle aches throughout the body and even delirium from the fever that you would know is different than a common cold so they made their best guesses in terms of their diagnoses and it and given that it was a pandemic . They were probably right . Most of the time .
And could it would people be gone within mere days of first feeling symptoms.
They could they could you know traditionally it’s babies and very old people who die of influenza for various reasons of their immune system and the respiratory tracks but they could die within a few days or they could get bacterial pneumonia and die within a week or so , you know , there’s a great line by Viktor Vaughn , who was the dean of the medical school at the University of Michigan. At the time but he was enlisted the help with the flu epidemic and he said bodies were being stacked like cord wood and that shows you how many people were dying and how rapidly they were dying .
Mark , do we know how individual communities responded. I’m wondering did did some areas get quarantined or did some towns say nobody from the outside can come in .
Well , the state actually jumped in and finally ordered statewide closures for various businesses in public places and really singled out places that they felt there could be easy transmission of the disease. One paper reported that the Sunday that this closure order went into effect was the bluest quoting bluest of all blue Sunday’s referring to the blue laws that didn’t allow you to do certain things on Sundays and then they even passed a law that quarantined individuals quarantine homes that had individuals that had an influenza and if they broke that quarantine they were punished with a hundred dollar fine or up to 90 days in jail .
How did all of this come to an end and how long did this pandemic run.
Well the pandemic like most flu pandemic just burned itself out , but there was not just the 1918 influenza pandemic it extended well into April of 1919 and then we don’t talk about this much , there was another wave of flu in the winter of 1920 January through April of 1920 , and by spring , it seemed to die out in 1919 , but you know , Michigan and Michigan cities didn’t have a good record of him posing these so called non pharmaceutical interventions quarantine school closure public gathering band’s early enough in a study that we did at the Center for the history of medicine you’ve with the CDC found that you had to do all of these interventions early before flu spread out all over your community , you had to do more than one and a layer of them so to speak , and you had to do it for a long period of time. Most communities started way too late and did them in a haphazard way which he had all these social not benefits but lacking of benefits other their released disruptive , but none of the benefits by doing them early in long enough , Detroit he had one of the worst records in the United States . Grand Rapids on the other hand , which imposed these interventions early and for a long period of time . Had one of the best records in terms of mortality from influenza that year .
How did that result in death toll in Michigan.
While the death toll is quite high. We don’t have good records , but if we use the average case fatality rate around the country and apply it to the number of cases that we know occurred in Michigan , probably about 19,000 Michigan died of flu that year .
When we when we realized that there were 50 million deaths worldwide from from Spanish influenza where does that put it , if you were ranking awful pandemics to strike the world.
Some of those numbers go , even as high as 100 million deaths worldwide. It’s the great mother of all pandemics to misquote Saddam Hussein .
Okay. It was the worst that we know of . Boy , that is something and if such a flu . If we had this kind of influenza outbreak today would Michigan be ready .
Yes and no we have much better hospital systems in intensive care units and medicines and our our momentary I’m our public health department is very qualified , but their budgets have been cut ridiculously low levels. Most people would say over the years , so it would be a challenge , and the other challenges . How would the population at large respond and a big thing to remember is that if you are sick , stay home . Don’t tough it out and go to work , because you will infect others . So that’s important for people to know as well .
Lessons to be learned and for anyone who wants to dig more deeply into the history of Spanish flu Spanish influenza Howard you on your colleagues compiled a lot of data for us to review on our website. So why did you come to Iowa . What’s the site .
Well , it’s called the 1918 1919 digital influenza encyclopedia. It has all things influenza in the United States , fearing that year newspaper clippings documents basically the biographies , if you will , of 50 or more cities . We keep adding to it in the United States , how they responded , who was mayor . What they did all the scandals the the inside dope so to speak , and you can go to influenza archives.org and you will be occupied I I guarantee you for hours on end .
Dr. Howard Markel PBS contributor and medical story with the University of Michigan and Mark Harvey Michigan History Center state archivist thanks so much for being with us today. Thank you . Thank you .
Today’s stateside was directed by Lindsay Scotland hand engineered by pegged Watson , our executive producer is Jolene strife contributors are Mike blank Mercedes my here April Zambia and Sam Corey Joy , who ran and Sara Lee sent stateside is a production of Michigan radio a broadcasting service of the University of Michigan. I’m Cynthia canteen . Thank you so much .
Take a look at all the news of the day.
From Michigan and from around the world. Next on All Things Considered this is Michigan radio .
On the next fresh air. We talk about the evangelical sexual purity and abstinence movement with Linda K Klein her new book pure as part memoir , including the story of how she left the church . It’s also based on conversations he’s had with other woman about how the evangelical purity movement has affected their sense of identity and there .