On September 20, 1918, the first cases of the H1N1 Influenza outbreak was recorded at Camp Zachary Taylor. This infection was spread by a number of soldiers who were transferred from Camp Devens to Camp Taylor. A number of these men were admitted to the hospital for treatment, then the infection spread rapidly inside the camp.
The total number of reported and treated cases of the flu from September 20th to December 31st was 12,816. Of those Flu cases, 2601 patients also had complications of pneumonia. By December 31st, 824 men and women died, and all but three of those cases also had pneumonia.
At the very onset of the epidemic, the Camp Surgeon called a board of officers for the purpose of formulating regulations to combat the disease. The first order was the closing of places of public gathering and entertainment. They restricted the number of men allowed in places of exchange (the PX) and how many many men were allowed to leave the camp on pass.
The mess halls were regulated as to how many men were allowed in at a time, and where where they could sit. Screens were installed at all of the tables to try to prevent the transfer of the virus wile eating. Sick inspections were stepped up to twice a day and any man showing a rise in temperature was sent to the hospital for isolation.
The Base Hospital was overwhelmed and incapable of housing the rising number of admissions. Action was taken to move men out of nearby barracks and place them under canvas to expand the hospital wards adding 8300 beds. On September 20th, 1918, the base hospital had 897 patients admitted. By October 8th, there were 8,593 patients under their care. Admissions peaked on October 7th, with 1,190 men admitted that one day.
The first death at Camp Zachary Taylor occurred on October 1st, taking the life of Sgt. James Gray Jr. The daily death rate increased for 11 straight days, peaking on October 11th, when 69 soldiers died that day. The death rate slowly decreased over the month of October when on November 2nd, only two deaths were reported.
The Base hospital issued Memorandums giving instructions on Treatment for the Flu. Their list of those treatments are as follows:
1. Place the patient in a warm cubicled bed and in a well ventilated ward allowing at least 1000 cubic feet of air per patient.
2. Take P.T. R.
3. Give warm milk.
4. Give Tinct. Digitalis – M.XXX-q.6.h. for 48 hours.
5. Give tepid sponge for temperatures 103.6 – q.4.h.
6. give cleansing S.S. enema on admission and q.d.
7. Drop 1% camphor-menthol in liquid petrolatum in both nostrils bid.
8. give hot saline mouth wash and gargle bid.
9. Give two C.C. pills night of admission if bowels have not moved sufficiently.
By November 1918, the Flu was losing ground and fewer cases were being reported. By the end of the year, it had run it’s course, and was on it’s way out.
It is estimated that the 1918 Flu Pandemic was contracted by 25 million Americans, and killed 675,000 of them. It killed an estimated 21,000 service men at home including approximately 950 and Camp Zachary Taylor. Approximately 43,000 American service men died world wide.
The following is a summary of the events that occurred at Camp Zachary Taylor and in the City of Louisville, showing the timeline of important events during the Flu Pandemic.
FLU AT CAMP TAYLOR
• September 20, 1918 – First Case of Influenza is reported at Camp Zachary Taylor.
• September 24, 1918 – Newspapers reported over 100 soldiers ill with influenza at CZT.
• September 25, 1918 – 262 cases reported at CZT.
• September 27, 1918 – Partial quarantine of CZT. Soldiers were prohibited from entering theaters, movie houses, restaurants, and other public places in town, as well as from congregating in the camp.
• End of September 1918 – more than 2,100 cases at CZT. Due to hospital overcrowding, 15 barracks of the “C” section of the camp were converted to temporary hospital wards.
• The week of October 19th, 1918 – 3,722 cases reported at CZT.
FLU IN LOUISVILLE
• Fall 1918 – The pandemic peaked in Louisville, but remained prevalent throughout the state during the winter and spring of 1919.
• Winter 1918/1919 – Louisville’s death rate was 406 per 100,000 people.
• By September 20, 1918 – 50 civilian cases were reported in Louisville.
• Late September 1918 – Louisville calculated about 1,000 cases.
• September 26, 1918 – City officials met to develop a plan of action.
• September 26 to November 16, 1918 – 6,735 cases of flu were reported in Louisville, 577 resulting in death.
• September 30, 1918 – State Board of Health issued its 1st Flu proclamation urging that anyone showing symptoms “isolate themselves.”
• By mid October – Louisville had about 180 deaths a week from influenza related illnesses.
• On October 2, 1918 – Local Boards of Health ordered to placard and quarantine any infected households for a minimum of 10 days.
• October 7, 1918 – Home Care was initiated by Louisville’s charitable nursing associations. Agencies such as The Red Cross worked to provide meals for the sick.
• October 7, 1918 – Statewide order was issued closing all churches, schools, and places of amusement or assembly until further notice.
• October 12, 1918 – Louisville reported a total of 2,300 cases of influenza since Sept 28.
• October 13, 1918 – Louisville opened a 110 bed capacity emergency hospital at the Hope Rescue Mission.
• November 11, 1918 – Conditions improved; Kentucky Board of Health announced the closure order and ban on gathering would be lifted, and issued regulations to prevent overcrowding and to ventilate stores properly.
• The week after Thanksgiving, 1918 – attendance at Crescent Hill neighborhood schools had dropped 50%.
• December 13, 1918 – Officials announced a 2nd school closure; children under 14 were banned from theaters and other public gathering places.
• December 30, 1918 – Schools were reopened.
• January 6, 1919 – Children were allowed to go to the movies and five and ten cent stores.
• Late February 1919 – 3rd spike of influenza cases occurred that lasted about 5 weeks. No closures were issued.
• October 1918 – 5,201 deaths were reported in Kentucky from influenza and related pneumonia.