1918: The virus emerges

March:  The first signs of the virus are reported at Fort Riley, Kansas when an Army cook reports to the camp hospital in the morning displaying signs of the virus. He was shortly followed by another soldier displaying the same symptoms. By noon the camp was dealing with 100 sick soldiers. The first wave was mild and the least widespread. The influenza missed Africa, South America, and only reached a portion of Canada.  It looked like normal flu so public health officials believed they could contend with the flu season.  

July: Public Health officials in the city of Philadelphia issuef a bulletin about the "so-called Spanish Influenza" The flu spread across Europe and made its way back to the United States. Public Health officials informed port cities such as Philadelphia and Boston to be on alert of military personnel returning from Europe as they might have symptoms of "minor respiratory infections, and that the local health authorities  should be advised only about those infections involving a considerable number of the crew or passengers and which were highly communicable and suggestive of epidemic influenza." Health officials were not as concerned with the influenza virus as they did not deem it to be a considerable threat unless there were large numbers of people infected. The main concern was measles, mumps, scarlet fever, meningitis, and pneumonia.

August: Sailors stationed in Boston report to the sick bay showing symptoms of "the grippe" or influenza.  A few days later there were over 60 sailors sick.

Some of the problems that plagued the nation was that health systems were not organized on a national level but rather on a local level. To help combat the flu it would require legislation to be passed in order to secure funding and resources to take on the virus as it reached all parts of the nation.

September: Cases emerged in New England and the virus spread at an alarming rate.  Dr. Victor C. Vaughn, Surgeon General of the Army has orders to proceed to Camp Devens, located near Boston to inspect the camp. 

On Sept. 5 The Massachusetts Department of Health alerts newspaper that an epidemic is underway.

U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue gives advice to the press on how to recognize flu symptoms. Blue prescribed bed rest, good foods, salts of quinine, and aspirin for the sick.
In Philadelphia 200,000 people gather for a 4th Liberty Loan Drive. Four days after the parade, 635 new cases of influenza were reported. City health officials were forced to admit the epidemic conditions and close public buildings including schools, churches, and theaters.  Before this point health officials were reluctant to admit the full scope of the influenza often censoring newspaper reports. Only Spain was forthcoming with information to its citizen about the influenza virus, which resulted in its linkage to the virus's nickname of  "Spanish Flu."

Sept 27th: The Surgeon General created the Volunteer Medical Service Corp. It was a loose organization that had a list of potential volunteers who were ready for immediate service. The Corp consisted of 50 units of ten doctors per unit. In one day the volunteer corp received 700 names. By the second day the figure climbed to 12,000. The increase in volunteers still did not meet the demand for doctors and nurses. Many changes took place in the health services as they were forced to expand their role to properly care for soldiers and civilians. Health services transitioned from local to national agencies during this period. In 1918 the government had 192 men working in the PHS. By October 1918 there were 1,085 doctors, 703 nurses, and 328 clerks. The new role of government and health services eventually led the way for a graduate school program at John Hopkins University.

October: Philadelphia records 289 deaths from the virus in a single day. Boston records 202 deaths, and 851 New Yorkers die of the influenza in one day.

Congress approves a special $1 million dollar fund to allow the U.S Public Health Service to recruit doctors and nurses submitted by Senator John Weeks from Massachusetts. 

Crime in Chicago drops by 43%. Authorities attribute the decrease to the toll that the influenza was taking on potential lawbreakers.

October was the deadliest month during the nation's history as 195,000 Americans fell victim to the influenza

 The Flu had stopped training and draft calls effectively shutting down the military as it was beginning the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began on October 1st 1918, the same time the influenza was wreaking havoc on the states. The Offensive involved 1.2 million soldiers and lasted 47 days.

November: Brings the end of World War One but not the end of the influenza. American troops are still stationed in Europe to assist with the peace negotiations. 

December: 5,000 new cases of the influenza were reported in San Francisco.  

1919 Time Line

The second wave began in September 1918.  It took the medical department by surprise as they were not prepared for such a large outbreak.

A navy ship traveling from Boston to Philadelphia on September 8th started the second wave.  Sailors traveled on overcrowded ships. For example the USS Leviathan had an official capacity of 6,800 soldiers. During World War I, the ship transported 11,000 men. As a result the flu was one of the major culprit for soldiers and sailors death. 

Americans were still stationed in Europe as they were beginning the negotiation process.

The third wave began in late 1918 and March 1919: It spread unevenly throughout the United States and Europe. The third wave was especially cruel as it killed soldiers who had survived the war.

January 1919:

Congressman William Borland, KS died. Borland was the third congressmen to die from the virus while in France.

February 1919:
Margaret Wilson, President Wilson's daughter contracts the flu in Brussels.

 April 1919

Thursday April 3rd 3:00 pm: President Wilson appears to be in good health according to Cary Grayson, White House

April 3rd 6:00 pm: President Wilson was seized with "violent paroxysms of coughing, which were so severe and frequent that it interfered with his breathing"

Grayson was concerned that Wilson had been a victim of an assassination plot as he was struck so quickly. Wilson was confined to bed for several days. His condition improved and by the fourth day of his illness he was able to sit up. He was able to receive visitors and held meetings from his bed. He met with American commissioners to work out details about the conference between himself, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Prime Minister Lloyd George of Great Britain.

  Mrs. Wilson, her secretary, Chief White House User Irwin Hoover, and Cary Grayson fell victim to the flu.

The Third Army Hospital reported 31,000 men hospitalized. 13,000 men had respiratory illnesses. 30% of those with respiratory illnesses had the flu. Doctors made sure patients had plenty of bed rest, gave them alcohol baths, and prescribed aspirin.

After the war, Congress had less interest and concern with the influenza. The collective short term memory of the nation attempted to come to terms with the end of the war and dismiss the devastating effects of the influenza.