By Beverly Clinkingbeard, Westboro, Mo.

As we begin the year 2018, the evening and morning national news report the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA) latest news, statistics and warnings of the current influenza epidemic. Their warnings and preventative advice have surely saved many folks the physical misery of the flu, as well as limited additional exposures.
It was 100 years ago that our locale was experiencing the flu. Early on it was called pneumonia or La Grippe. What would begin as a seeming cold would quickly become influenza and pneumonia would follow. It was an H1N1 influenza (that is today’s medical category and unknown in 1918) and commonly called in 1918, the Spanish Flu. Spain objected to the name, but probably it was dubbed that because Spain had a horrific number of deaths. Their army was called out to bury the dead, and as the flu was very contagious, many soldiers died in the line of duty, joining those they had been commanded to help.
World War I was being fought and Spain remained neutral (though thought to secretly befriend the Kaiser).  Spain’s neighbor, France, had every able-bodied man on the front lines defending their country against the Kaiser. Many from Spain went to France to work replacing their young men at farm and factory jobs. They took with them the H1N1 influenza.
Though not known at the time, China was suffering from the flu epidemic and it is now thought the epidemic originated there. Great Britain and Canada brought 50,000 young men from China to Europe to build bunkers, roads and barriers in the war effort. The workers were transported in ‘standing room only conditions’ and they also had the flu.
Whatever the case, the stage was set for an epidemic with so many young men called into military service, living and training in close proximity to one another. The epidemic became a pandemic. Though WWI was a slaughterhouse of the young, more soldiers died from influenza than military action. The virus continued to mutate and became more deadly as it moved across the globe becoming a pandemic. The figures are an estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza, and the illness focused on young adults and children.
An unprepared world was frantic to stop the deadly disease. Undoubtedly, 100 years of medical advances has made a difference in the influenza of 2018. The difficulty in preparing a vaccine to combat a pandemic is the ability of the virus to mutate and become a strain not covered by medicine.
A basic that evolved from 1918 is ‘quarantine’ and the ‘stay at home’ theory. Also, today it is masks, gloves, antiseptic sprays and wipedowns. Through the media, people are more aware of symptoms and medical advances have definitely helped.
The Clarinda Journal reported Shenandoah, Iowa, had 187 cases of Spanish Influenza in October of 1918. The Fulk family at Shambaugh, Iowa, were reported ill with the flu. The Kelly School (J-54 and College Springs turn-off) was reported closed due to influenza. The movie theatres closed, there were no school or home parties (either they were ill or afraid of becoming ill); churches ceased services and funerals were quiet and poorly attended.
In Blanchard’s cemetery the Copeland family has two tombstones, the same size and color. One stone bears the loss of two little boys within a few days of each other. A month later another boy would join them. The stones silently proclaim the grief that must have enfolded the family.
Westboro and Tarkio areas also struggled with loss. Westboro October news said, “The Spanish influenza has spread rapidly during the past week. The doctors reported 67 cases in Westboro and vicinity Wednesday. The schools, churches, picture show, etc., are closed indefinitely.” “Iowa Lefforge, a prominent young man of this community, died at his home…after a brief illness of pneumonia following an attack of Spanish influenza.”
In Tarkio, “Owing to a few cases of Spanish influenza in the town and vicinity, the mayor issued a proclamation closing the schools, churches, picture shows, and all other public gatherings for the week of October 12-19 inclusive. If no further cases develop the quarantine will be lifted next Sunday. However, it was at the end of November the “Influenza Ban Lifted…,” but, before the paper could be circulated, “Just as we go to press we are informed by the School Board that it was decided not to open the public schools on Monday.” It would be a month later before the ban was lifted and “the Linwood Theatre opened…”
The Twitty family also knew loss,  “…two little girls, seven and four respectively, died Wednesday night within a few hours of each other….The aunt…Mrs. Hallie Judson, who was caring for them also contracted the influenza and died Thursday morning. Mrs. Judson is also down with the disease. All three were laid to rest today…”