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Some fast facts about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in Moose Jaw

Historian Richard Dowson provides a look at the 1918 pandemic
Spanish Flu 4
Photo of Alberta farmers featured on the cover of The Last Plague, written by Memorial University of Newfoundland historian Mark Humphries. Handout photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

Spanish Flu emerged in the United States in late 1917. Its existence was covered up. Spanish Newspapers reported it – hence the name. Waves were 1917 – then early 1918 – and the fall and winter 1918-19 which is when it struck Moose Jaw.

Population of Moose Jaw and District in October, 1918 was about 40,000

There were 3 hospitals – the General, Providence and Ross (Military) – Moose Jaw and District Medical Officer of Health was Dr. Turnbull – he lived in what is now the Jones Funeral Home building.

Wednesday, October 2, 1918 – Spanish Flu was in Winnipeg – Dr. Turnbull said he and his staff were, “…  taking all necessary steps to deal with an outbreak should it occur.”

Tuesday, October 8, 1918 – Eleven soldiers and the Spanish Flu arrived by train in Moose Jaw

On October 8, 1918, a Saskatchewan Order-in-Council required mandatory reporting of people sick with Spanish Flu and that sick people “…must be isolated for a week or until all symptoms have disappeared.”

The ‘Official Day’ of Spanish Flu Pandemic arriving in Moose Jaw – Sunday, October 13, 1918.

Tuesday, October 15, 1918 – First death in Moose Jaw and District – Robert John Brown who died at the General Hospital after only three days of sickness.

Thursday, October 17, 1918 – Number sick: 25 soldiers at Armoury – 32 at the General; 28 at the Providence hospital – Places of worship and entertainment closed – public meetings suspended – public places closed – schools closed – all for at least one week.

Saturday, October 19, 1918  –  56 new cases – Providence experiencing overcrowding – placing “couches and cots” in the corridors. The Moose Hotel on the South Hill converted to a hospital.

Monday, October 21, 1918 –  208 new cases – difficult to count and treat people – “Businesses Badly Crippled” – Hospitals short of linen – ask for donations.

Saturday, October 26, 1918 – 161 New Cases – Monday, October 28, 1918 – Medical Advice: “First thing to do is isolate.” Towns of Foam Lake and Morse closed to incoming passenger trains. More than a 1,000 people sick in Moose Jaw

Wednesday, October 30, 1918 – Prince Arthur School is designated a hospital

Thursday, October 31, 1918 – Prohibition Changed – Clause 10 of the Temperance Act amended – Doctors can prescribe ‘Booze’ for medical treatment, of course – bought at drug stores.

Curve is flattened – Saturday, November 2, 1918 – 11 deaths – a decrease in new cases – Mon., Nov. 4th only 7 deaths –Tuesday, November 5th only 10 deaths – fewer fresh cases.

Saturday, Nov. 9 – Moose Hospital closing – patients transferred to Prince Arthur (school) Hospital – Tuesday, November 12, 1918 only four deaths per day over last four days.

Schools, theatres, dance halls, pool rooms to open next Monday, November 18, 1918.

Thursday, November 14, 1918 – The News declares the “Epidemic is Beaten.”

Saturday, Nov. 30 – No deaths in three days – three new cases – still a shortage of nurses.

The pandemic settled in and was tolerated. Most of the deaths occurred in the same families. The pandemic continued to kill people through the winter.

By late spring 1919 it had left the Moose Jaw area.

The Spanish Flu pandemic killed 6.6 per cent of the population of Saskatchewan.

Odd Fact: mostly the young died. People 45 and older had a low mortality rate. This was probably because they had survived the “Russian Flu Pandemic of 1889-90” and had developed immunity (antibodies).