Spanish flu timeline

Associated Press In this 1918 photo made available by the Library of Congress, volunteer nurses from the American Red Cross tend to influenza patients in the Oakland Municipal Auditorium, used as a temporary hospital.

A timeline of the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918-1919 in Columbiana County from contemporary reports from the Buckeye State (forerunner of the Morning Journal), Evening Review and Salem News:

Oct. 4 – Camp Sherman, a military training institution in Chillicothe, reports that the influenza epidemic infected 3,800 and killed 100 since the disease arrived in late summer. Many area soldiers were assigned to that camp as the war raged in Europe. By the end of 1918, the camp would report 5,686 cases of flu and 1,777 deaths.

Oct. 6 – Seventy soldiers die of flu at Camp Sherman in a day.

Oct. 7 – Salem closes schools, saloons, theaters and churches in response to growing fears about influenza.

Oct. 10 – Disease begins to take hold in Columbiana County. East Palestine is particularly hard hit with 1,000 cases. A doctor in East Palestine admits to attending to 60 patients in a day. It is reported that 12 deaths have already occured in East Palestine with more than a third of the residents having at least one family member affected. Lisbon, Leetonia, Salem, Negley, Rogers and Columbiana also report cases. Leetonia bans public gatherings of any kind. Fairfield Township centralized high school closes. Mount Union College also closes.

Oct. 14 – East Palestine cases hit 1,800 as the city is recognized as the hardest hit in Ohio. A total of 36 are dead from the disease there including a physician. East Palestine appeals to physicians in Pittsburgh and East Liverpool for help. Lisbon closes movie theaters, saloons, churches and other places where the public gathers. Even though there are just 25 cases in Lisbon, officials beg the public to practice good hygiene and to not congregate in public. East Liverpool reports 27 cases with Wellsville having 12. East Liverpool also acts to limit public functions. There is said to be 2,100 cases in Columbiana County.

Oct. 17 – Lisbon announces first flu death. The Salem High vs. Warren High football game is postponed and is tentatively scheduled to be made-up after Thanksgiving. East Liverpool now has 102 cases and its first death. One-third of the cases are in the East End.

Oct. 18 – East Liverpool gets $1,500 in emergency funds to develop a “plague hospital”. The YMCA and old high school building are being considered as the locations. Wellsville sees two deaths but has no new cases.

Oct. 19 – Salem officials seem to think the epidemic is abating in the city. The city has reported 12 deaths and thinks about lifting bans.

Oct. 21 – East Palestine hits 60 deaths with eight happening within the last 48 hours. A total of 2,400 have been infected in the village. Twenty nurses from Youngstown give a class on emergency nursing care to residents caring for the stricken in their private residences. An emergency hospital at McGraw clubhouse has also been established in East Palestine with 10 having died there. Lisbon is praised for its rush to prepare by an East Palestine official in town to sell war bonds. Lisbon reports 150 cases with several physicians affected, while appeals to East Liverpool and Wellsville are made for more physicians. Lisbon stresses the need for accurate record keeping of all cases and reminds residents that physicians expect payment. Cards warning against spitting and sneezing are put up in Lisbon, while strict street cleaning measures are taken up. Stores are to be disinfected daily. Police are ordered to break up any group congregating in the street. Those entering sick rooms are ordered to wear masks. Red cards go up on houses where the ill reside. Druggists report short supplies of aspirin and the fever-reducing drug phenacetin.

Oct. 22 – East Liverpool readies emergency hospital at West End fire station. There are 198 cases in the city. Salem sees 28 new cases with none appearing serious.

Oct. 24 – Lisbon starts an emergency hospital at the Knights of Pythias Hall. Requests for bedding, night gowns, night shirts, blankets, sheets and cots are made to the public. Volunteers to man the hospital are needed. Two flu deaths are reported in West Point. East Liverpool reports 27 new cases and four deaths. East Palestine now has 61 deaths.

Oct. 30 – Salem mayor postpones Halloween activities and warns against pranks on Halloween. In Chester, W.Va., a milk shortage is reported due to distributors being sick.

Oct. 31 – Lisbon cancels Halloween celebrations. The emergency hospital in Lisbon reports one death. Salem reports 19th death but cases are falling. East Liverpool believes worst of flu is behind it.

Nov. 1 – State of Ohio public health officials say quarantine measures can start to be lifted.

Nov. 2 – Salem officials think church services will soon be held again.

Nov. 8 – Situation is still serious in East Liverpool with 92 cases reported in a week.

Nov. 9 – Salem says schools, theaters, saloons and restaurants can be reopened. A ban on Sunday sports is also lifted.

Nov. 11 – Lisbon declares flu epidemic over in town. Town reported 550 cases and 12 deaths with drastic public health measures taken thought to be largely successful. Emergency hospital saw as many as 16 patients at one time with only two dying there.

Nov. 14 – Pittsburgh approaches 20,000 cases.

Nov. 15 – East Liverpool allows churches, saloons and theaters to reopen, but schools will remain closed one more week. Children age 15 and under are banned from theaters. Businesses must employ watchmen to break up crowds.

Nov. 16 – Salem has to squash rumors of another round of closings after 70 new cases are reported. It is believed the large Armistice Day celebrations of Nov. 11 may have made conditions likely for another wave of influenza spread. A front page editorial in The Evening Review questions whether the closures have done much good at all. The paper suggests that knowing where the disease is in the city and quarantining those afflicted is perhaps a more effective way of containing the disease than mass closures: “A close observation of the cases occurring among us shows that the disease is pretty much a neighborhood-affair. Friends will insist on calling on the sick; neighbors thinking that they are acting charitably will visit. They become carriers of the disease.”

Nov. 18 – Epidemic hits West Point with 42 cases reported, most of them being women and children. No deaths though. East Liverpool praises Catholic nuns who went into many homes in the city to deal with the sick. The emergency hospital in East Liverpool is still open.

Nov. 19 – East Liverpool orders all homes sheltering influenza victims to be quarantined. A sign will be posted at each home affected and no visitors will be allowed. Penalties for failure to adhere to the order will range from $10 to $50.

Nov. 22 – East Liverpool hits 943 cases since the outbreak began.

Nov. 24 – East Liverpool records nine deaths in 24 hours. Officials discuss closing the emergency hospital and moving patients to city hospital where there are 100 beds. Pittsburgh moves to 21,000 cases. Officials in Pittsburgh want no one to attend funerals.

Nov. 27 – East Liverpool closes emergency hospital. Schools will reopen Dec. 3.

Nov. 28 – Salineville reports five deaths in one week, including a 16-year-old girl. Cases of influenza in Salineville number 200.

Nov. 29 – Salem officials reconsider closures but do not act on them, satisfied that institutions will take proper precautions to stop the spread of the flu. East Liverpool records nine deaths on Thanksgiving. A shortage of grave diggers hampers efforts to bury victims.

Nov. 30 – East Liverpool Evening Review managing editor Oliver Jones, 44, dies of influenza. Since Oct. 10, 57 have died of influenza in East Liverpool.

Dec. 3 – Current Salem cases hit 600. Factories and shops must be fumigated twice a week. Schools do not reopen in East Liverpool. Most businesses where people congregate are once again closed in East Liverpool.

Dec. 7 – It is estimated that East Liverpool has seen 3,000 cases of the flu since the epidemic began. Official cases reported are 1,293.

Dec. 11 – East Liverpool says schools will reopen Jan. 6. The city reports four new deaths.

Dec. 12 – Situation in Salineville still distressing to residents as a state physician leaves after helping to battle the flu there for three weeks. Salem reports it has seen 1,720 cases since the beginning of the epidemic in October.

Dec. 16 – The Ohio state health department reports that one million in the state have been infected with the disease and 17,000 have perished.

Dec. 23 – East Liverpool lifts order closing theaters. Salem says ban on shopping and social events will remain in place until Jan. 3 in an attempt to squash new infections.

Dec. 27 – East Liverpool proclaims flu epidemic to be over in city. A total of 135 residents died of the flu since Oct. 10.


Jan. 3 – Salem cases total 1,967 with 44 deaths. The city is still seeing about 15 new cases a day.

Jan. 4 – Salem allows schools, churches, theaters and businesses to reopen without restriction.

Compiled by Michael S. Burich


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