Med Journal October 2020 - Page 10

ty . 18 In many cases , businesses and plants did not open because they didn ’ t have enough healthy employees . The American Bauxite Mining Company in Saline County was closed for at least one day . 19 The Benton Courier had trouble producing a newspaper because of employees off sick with the flu . 20 Physicians and what nurses they could muster went about their calls . There is a report of at least three physicians dying of the flu in Crawford and Sebastian counties in northwest Arkansas . 21 There are numerous accounts of multiple members of households being infected and no one to care for them . Caskets were often makeshift affairs thrown together by able-bodied friends . There are multiple reports of areas in rural Arkansas where there was no one in the family well enough to attend funerals . 22 The car , still a novelty , on the dirt roads of Arkansas , was used to transport physicians on their calls . Dr .
Ashby ’ s Funeral Home ad that appeared in a 1918 edition of the Benton Courier .
Christopher Columbus Gray in Independence County recruited his sons to drive from call to call so he could sleep in between visits . 23
By all appearances , the quarantine worked because by the third week in October the report of new cases had begun to subside , and talks began about lifting the quarantine . Remote areas like Pettigrew in Madison County had completely escaped the epidemic and thought they were in the clear . On October 25 , 1918 , they had a public gathering at the school and in the space of two days , everyone in town had the flu . Despite this exception , most areas of the state were showing a sharp drop in new cases of the flu . 24 The TB Sanitorium , south of Booneville , instituted a strict quarantine and had no flu at all . 25 On October 26 , a partial lifting of the quarantine was beginning for areas of the state hit earlier . 26 By November 4 , 1918 , the statewide quarantine was lifted but it was left up to individual counties based on their situation . 27
What were the results of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 ?
It should be noted that health statistics in Arkansas are notoriously inaccurate until the 1940s . There is no way to know for absolute certain how many died in Saline County but what data that is available make it clear that the rural counties suffered like the rest of the state . Rough death totals suggest that 20 to 50 million died around the world , 500,000 died in the United States and 7000 people in the state of Arkansas died in this wave and another wave that occurred in the winter of 1919 . 28 The Funeral Registry at Ashby ’ s Funeral Home in Benton is one of those sad snapshots that we do have access to . For the years between 1917 and 1919 , the funeral home averaged seven to fifteen funerals per month with the exception of the month of October 1918 when they performed 71 funerals . Almost as quickly as the epidemic came , it was gone , and , in November of 1918 , the funeral home was back to its normal rate of deaths and funerals . 29
The short-term economic consequences of the Spanish Flu were obvious . Merchants in Little Rock recorded drops of 40-70 % in their business . Clearly , this was equally true throughout the state . A study done in 2007 on the long-term economic impact suggests that those born during the time of the epidemic had reduced educational attainment , higher rates of physical disability , and lower incomes . Because of its propensity to strike young adults , the flu had a lingering effect on business and social life well into the 1920s . 30
Why was the Spanish flu forgotten ?
There are any number of theories as to why we seemed to have forgotten this dreadful month 100 years ago .
Even though psychiatry has moved on from Freudian theory , one of his ideas still holds sway and that is the idea of repression . Simply stated , human beings and society in general tend to banish painful memories from their consciousness . This was a painful time , and everyone was faced with this dreadful specter of a painful death not unlike the Plague of the 14th century .
The epidemic was paired with the ending of WWI , November 11 , 1918 . “ All Clear on the Western Front ” signaled the end of the " War to End All Wars " and for most people the epidemic . These two painful memoires concluded on almost the same day .
Could it happen again ?
Epidemiologists seem in agreement that another deadly pandemic like that of 1918 , is not a matter of IF but of WHEN . In 1918 , there were 1.8 billion people worldwide and now there are 7.8 billion people on our lonely , little planet . There are more of us to get infected and spread the infection . Unlike 100 years ago , we tend to live in cities and towns . But still today in many parts of the world , sanitation is lacking , and these areas act as breeding grounds for new viral flu strains . Probably more important , we now travel at rapid rates from one part of the world to another in less than two days . Much like the train in the early 20th century , jets act as a two-edged sword , providing us with access to the rest of the world and transmitting disease just as quickly . 31
This article is part of an ongoing series from Dr . Sam Taggart . For a complete set of referencess , email ams @ arkmed . org .
82 • The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society www . ArkMed . org