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Klamath Prepares for Flu Epidemic in 1920

The flu pandemic of 1918 to 1919 stands as the deadliest in modern history.  It infected some 500 million people, about one-third of the world population, killing an estimated 20 million to 50 million of them.

It’s no wonder that Klamath Falls took seriously the following year’s flu season, even establishing emergency patient isolation units in the old city hall and the new courthouse. 

Mayor T.R. Struble proclaimed on Feb. 16, 1920, that the situation was “well in hand,” but requested the closure for two days of schools and “places of business, amusements and pleasure.”  He urged that home owners, businesses, hotels and lodging houses clean and fumigate their buildings and the trash surrounding them.

At one point, the city health officer, Dr. A. A. Soule, advocated a stricter quarantine of flu victims that he said would keep the State Board of Health from shutting down the whole city.

The Evening Herald reported on March 5 that the influenza outbreak was “fully checked.”  Dr. Soule reported 10 or 12 patients remained quarantined, but of the 61 people who died in Klamath Falls in February, probably only 27 of them had the flu.


Sources: "Proclamation." The Evening Herald 11 - 16 Feb., 5 March 1920 [Klamath Falls, Ore.] : 1. Print; "1918 Flu Pandemic." Wikipedia. "1918 Flu Pandemic." Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 1920. Web. 21 June 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic;

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.