© 2022
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Measles in Schools

North Dakota’s Legislature passed a law in 1975 that increased requirements for school immunizations. Parents had to provide proof their children had immunizations for several diseases, including measles. Epidemics in schools had posed challenges for decades in North Dakota, with measles bringing the risk of complications such as pneumonia.

On this date in 1916, measles epidemics were on the rise across North Dakota. One case of measles in Williston led health authorities to caution the public to be vigilant for colds, sneezing, fevers and other symptoms. Twenty-five students in Dunn Center were quarantined at home with measles.

The disease struck 20 students in Turtle Lake. Two weeks later, half the town and the surrounding country had measles. The Washburn Leader reported that “Most every patient is having an unusually hard time of it.” The paper also said very few little children “are lucky enough to grow up without getting” measles.

Belfield saw an outbreak of measles with 146 people sickened. All the Belfield schools closed.

Linton’s school principal asked families with measles cases to keep their children at home until everyone was well again. Newspaper ads urged mothers to recognize symptoms so children could be isolated.

More school closures occurred in January, extending Christmas vacations for many. Fort Yates and Linton schools were closed for three weeks, and Newburg’s schools were closed for more than a month.

Steele’s schools closed in late March due to measles, and Edgeley’s schools closed in April when 100 of the town’s 718 residents were sickened. Schools in Scranton closed in April, with dual epidemics of measles and chickenpox. More than 35 people were quarantined.

This history of epidemics among children factored in to the North Dakota law mandating immunizations. So did the apparently lax attitudes among parents about immunizations. Immunization levels of schoolchildren in the mid-1970s ranged from 46% for polio to 78% for measles and rubella. There were concerns about polio and other diseases reemerging. North Dakota’s Department of Health wanted at least 90% immunization to cut down on the diseases.

The immunization bill’s sponsor, Rep. Aloha Eagles, of Fargo said: “This is probably the simplest and cheapest form of preventive medicine.” 

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0opgc1WoS4?https://www.health.nd.gov/media/2157/2018-9-7-individual-from-burleigh-county-thought-to-have-measles-tests-negative.pdf
http://www.ndhealth.gov/disease/newsletters/epiarchives/qtr4-11.pdf
The Bismarck Tribune. 1987, May 7. Page 9
The Bismarck Tribune. 1986, April 27. Page 39
The Bismarck Tribune. 2011, June 14. Page 14
The Bismarck Tribune. 1975, June 16. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1975, February 24. Page 28
The Ward County Independent. 1917, April 12. Page 18
The Washburn Leader. 1917, April 5. Page 4
Sioux County Pioneer. 1917, April 12. Page 3
The Bottineau Courant. 1917, February 22. Page 4
The Washburn Leader. 1917, February 16. Page 5
The Bottineau Courant. 1917, January 25. Pages 4, 8
The Dickinson Press. 1917, January 20. Page 8
Emmons County Record. 1917, January 18. Page 3
Sioux County Pioneer. 1917, January 18. Page 1
Emmons County Record. 1917, January 11. Page 3
The Bottineau Courant. 1917, January 11. Page 3
Sioux County Pioneer. 1917, January 11. Page 4
Sioux County Pioneer. 1917, January 4. Page 4
Emmons County Record. 1917, January 4. Page 1
The Washburn Leader. 1916, December 29. Page 5
Emmons County Record. 1916, December 28. Page 3
Emmons County Record. 1916, December 21. Page 3
The Washburn Leader. 1916, December 15. Page 1
The Dickinson Press. 1916, December 16. Pages 2, 14
The Dickinson Press. 1916, December 9. Pages 4, 7
Williston Graphic. 1916, December 7. Page 4

Prairie Public Broadcasting provides quality radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.
Related Content