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The Flu—Are We Ready?


At this time in 1918, North Dakota was in the midst of the worst epidemic since the plague of the middle ages. Hundreds suffered from Spanish Influenza, and when the virus subsided in 1919, an estimated 1,378 North Dakotans—if not more—and nearly 20 million world-wide had died from the virus.

But the flu is not a bygone threat. The flu virus has the ability to change its protective coat and thereby deceive a body’s immunity against a particular strain of the virus, and according to Stephen McDonough, author of The Golden Ounce, a new major strain appears every 10 to 15 years.

The Jamestown Sun reported today in 1925 that Dr. E.O. Jordan of the University of Chicago was uncertain of our preparedness to face another epidemic. He said, “We should as public health workers and students of the disease be little, if at all, better equipped to deal with it than we were seven years ago.” With the recent break-out of the bird flu, one must wonder if we are ready even 88 years after the epidemic of 1918.

By Tessa Sandstrom


“Influenza took twenty million and stop unknown,” Jamestown Sun. Oct. 22, 1925: 1.

McDonough, Stephen. The Golden Ounce: A Century of Public Health in North Dakota. Grand Forks: 1989.