Spokane and the Nation: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919

Headline: “Epidemic New in Name Only”

Source: Spokesman Review October 20, 1918, page 7

Subject: Letter from health board to local physicians

Synopsis: In a letter to Spokane physicians, city health officer John B. Anderson states that doctors must comply with all decisions made by the health board in regards to the influenza epidemic. Physicians should tell their patients that “Spanish” influenza is the same disease as regular influenza, but has a different name. In addition, doctors should treat all cases of the cold as influenza until proven otherwise. Also, physicians must report all cases of influenza and pneumonia to the health board.

Notable Quotations:

• “The local profession has loyally assisted the health department in the past and no valid reason can be advanced why that stanch support will not be continued.”

• “In reporting pneumonia, please state whether or not the primary cause was thought to be influenza. With pneumonia report include name, address and age of patient.”

“Epidemic New in Name Only”

Adjective “Spanish” Sole Novelty About Influenza, Alias La Grippe, Says Anderson.

Issues Circular Letter

Urges Isolation of All Patients Three Days After Temperature Becomes Normal.

            The following circular was issued to physicians yesterday by Dr. John B. Anderson, city health officer:

            “The local profession has loyally assisted the health department in the past and no valid reason can be advanced why that stanch support will not be continued.

            “As long as time exists men capable of independent thinking will be more or less individualistic in their ideas as to methods of effectually developing fundamental problems. However, the potential of action in unity has been handed down through the experience of ages, and has become an axiomatic principle of democratic government.

New in Name Only.

            “As a result of the prevalence abroad of the so-called ‘Spanish influenza’ the health officer is taking such precautions to safeguard the health of the city as are indicated by conditions and the apparent nature of the malady.

            “Doctor, you may have laudable convictions as to methods of fighting a crisis like the present at variance with the routine established by those now in authority. However, our mutual aim is identical – suppress the ‘flu’; save life. To that end we request during the period of this present epidemic of influenza, that you treat every case of cold coming to your attention as influenza until the contrary is established, at least to the extent of insisting on the same exacting requirements, to wit. Keep the patient isolated; deny visitors to his presence, and have him remain isolated from the public for at least three days after the temperature shall have been normal. Inform your patients that the only thing new about ‘Spanish influenza’ is the adjective; that it is none other than the old fashioned familiar influenza, alias la grippe, dolled up in a new dress.

How to Avoid Infection.

            “Much good will be accomplished if you will take the time to tell your patient that colds and grippe are communicated by droplet infection, explain what droplet infection is, and that the present restrictions are established with the idea of preventing people from massing, thereby minimizing the danger incident to close proximity of infected persons.

            “The state board of health has made influenza a reportable disease, as well as pneumonia, both broncho and lobar.

            “In reporting pneumonia, please state whether or not the primary cause was thought to be influenza. With pneumonia report include name, address and age of patient.

            “In reporting influenza, total daily number of new cases is the information desired. Instruct your office attendant to look after this detail.

Prompt Reports Urged.

            “The surgeon general’s office requests of the health office accumulated influenza data by wire daily. This is an additional reason for your making prompt daily reports.

            “Enclosed is a leaflet issued by the surgeon general’s office. If you can make use of more copies of this leaflet, on your request we will see that you are supplied.

            “Permit me, doctor, to thank you for the execution of the within formulated requests. In so doing, I anticipate, as my experience justifies, a full compliance.”