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Unit 5: Set 4. The Spanish Flu in North Dakota - Government Records

Introduction | Government Records | State Health Reports | Oral History: Gillies | Activity

State Board of Health Reports

Statistics are an important means of measuring the state of health of a particular population. Each county of North Dakota had a health officer who was to keep records of disease and death in the county and report these to the governor every two years.

The biennial report of the State Board of Health provides one view of the impact of the Spanish flu in North Dakota. The statistics are accompanied by a brief narrative report by the county health officers. Four pages of the Death Statistics for 1917- 1918 and 1918 – 1919 are presented here in addition to excerpts from the county health officer reports. These summarize the health statistics, though according to the report of the Burleigh County Health Officer, the statistics may be a little low for some areas. Note how each county health officer assesses the impact of the flu.

(download pdf of following report)

State of North Dakota 1920 Report of the State Board of Health For the Biennial Period Ending June 30, 1920. Charles J. McGurren, M.D., Secretary. Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune, State Printers.

City of Minot, pp. 24-27

by Dr. Charles K. Allen, M.D., City Health Officer

“During the past two years, the influenza-pneumonia pandemic hit Minot with real force. It was necessary to close schools, churches, public gathering places, theatres, etc., 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 who had small private hospitals used in their specialties. 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.”

City of  Mandan, p. 23

“With the exception of 1,427 cases of influenza, we have had no epidemics in our city. The following communicable diseases have been reported during the period covered by this report:

Diphtheria . . . . . . . .. . . . 1 case

Small pox . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 cases

Scarlet fever . . . . . . . . . . 28 cases

Tuberculosis . . . . . . . . . . 6 cases

Typhoid fever . . . . . . . . . 9 cases

Poliomyelitis . . . . . . . . . 3 cases”

Burleigh County, p. 31

“In common with other parts of the state, this county suffered severely and the mortality was very high, during the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. On account of the number of physicians in the service, medical attendance was difficult to get and may patients were brought long distances, when in an exhausted condition, to the hospitals at Bismarck, and the death rate among such patients was very high. During the epidemic of 1919-1920, every effort was made to have patients cared for at home, or brought to the hospitals in the earlier stages of the disease, and results were much better, the death rate being comparatively low.

“Burleigh County had thirteen physicians who received commissions and served in the Army or Navy medical corps, during the war. There were twelve from the city of Bismarck, probably a larger number than from any other city in the state. The number in service from the city was fifty per cent of all the licensed physicians there.” The report went on to note that it was impossible to collect statistics on the flu because so few physicians were able to keep records due to so many cases.”

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