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Influenza Strikes Again


The flu pandemic a century ago lasted beyond 1918. It lingered into 1920 and sent parts of North Dakota back into lockdown. North Dakota’s state health officer recommended avoiding travel, visits and crowding. He urged local health authorities to prohibit unnecessary gatherings and public funerals, and to regulate seating in opera houses. His office also had charge of directing Red Cross aid.

In Fargo, two students of the North Dakota Agricultural College died in the college barracks one day in January. Several student athletes fell ill. An outbreak also struck the college Piano Department. A freshman dance was canceled due to “the dangers of spreading the disease.”

On this date in 1920, the mayor of Grand Forks forbid dances and restricted movie theaters to half capacity. Theaters also had to deny admittance to people with coughs or colds. The University of North Dakota closed for two weeks. First-semester exams were canceled. Many student's took the train home. Some remained sick in hospitals. With 150 total cases of flu on this date in 1920, Grand Forks opened a detention hospital for isolating sick people, and formed a committee to fight the outbreak.

In Mandan, spectators were barred from attending a Fargo-Mandan high school basketball game. In late January, Bismarck’s city health officer had banned public dances. Health authorities on this date in 1920 reported 20 new cases of flu in Bismarck and Mandan, for a total of 186, including the neighboring towns. The Burleigh County Red Cross chapter called for volunteer nurses to aid the sick.

Also on this date that year, Stark County’s Board of Health banned public gatherings, shows and dances. And with 50 cases of flu in Belfield, the city authorities “placed a ban on everything” and closed schools and churches. The Stark County Red Cross chapter prepared an emergency hospital.

In Langdon, a physician suggested using confiscated liquor locked in courthouse vaults as a flu treatment!

Stutsman County’s Board of Health stopped all public meetings, dances, school entertainment, film showings and church events, and ordered people not to congregate in stores, bars and restaurants. The public health order was done “to avoid a repetition of the severe epidemic of 1918."

And on this date in Jamestown, 17 new cases of flu were reported, for a total of 163, including one death. 

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

The Bismarck Tribune. 1919, August 15. Page 7
The Weekly Spectrum. 1920, January 27. Pages 1, 2, 7
The Bismarck Tribune. 1920, January 29. Page 1
The Fargo Forum. 1920, January 31. Page 6
The Weekly Spectrum. 1920, February 3. Page 3
The Fargo Forum. 1920, February 4. Pages 3, 9
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, February 4. Page 14
The Bismarck Tribune. 1920, February 4. Pages 1, 6
The Bismarck Tribune. 1920, February 5. Page 1
Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1920, February 5. Page 7
Courier Democrat. 1920, February 5. Page 4
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, February 5. Page 12
The Bismarck Tribune. 1920, February 7. Page 8
The Bismarck Tribune. 1920, February 16. Page 3
The Weekly Spectrum. 1920, February 17. Page 2
The Washburn Leader. 1920, February 20. Page 1
Grand Forks Herald. 1920, February 25. Page 5
The Bismarck Tribune. 1920, March 4. Page 2

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