Previous Pandemic

Peruna ads from the 1921 pages of the Herald said the “health building, strength restoring qualities of this well-known remedy are especially marked after a protracted sickness, the grip, or Spanish Flu.” The testimonials were mostly faked, and the creator later admitted the product didn’t actually cure anything. It continued to sell during Prohibition because it was 18% alcohol but considered a tonic and not a beverage. Peruna largely disappeared from American drug store shelves around 1940.

Editor’s note: COVID-19 isn’t the first time Ava and Douglas County have dealt with a deadly pandemic. On October 10, 1918, the Douglas County Herald ran the following article from then Mayor A.H. Buchanan and the Board of Health describing the Spanish Flu and advising people on how to avoid spreading it.

While the phrases “shelter at home” or “social distancing” aren’t used, much of the advice will sound familiar.



Ban on All Public Meetings

School, Picture Show, Churches, ETC., Stopped because of Influenza

Owing to the spread of “Spanish” influenza, a few cases of which were discovered in Ava the first of the week, the Board of Health has ordered that all public gatherings including school, picture shows, churches, Sunday Schools, and theaters, be discontinued until further notice is given.

Liberty Loan meetings are excepted in the order.

The Board of Health consists of Dr. R.M. Norman, Judge W.K. Dyer, and J.T. Singleton.

Following is the order which was issued by the Mayor and which took effect on Tuesday of this week:

Public Health Notice

On account of the epidemic of influenza prevailing over the country, all schools, churches, Sunday Schools, picture shows, theaters, and other public gatherings, except Liberty Loan meetings, are ordered closed and prohibited in the city of Ava, Missouri, until further notice is given.

The people are requested to refrain from congregating together and to keep off the streets as far as possible. This request goes to the children as well as adults. A compliance with this request may save doctor bills and even life.

Done by order of the Board of Health. This the 8th day of October, 1918.

– A.H. Buchanan, Mayor

For information for those desiring to know the nature of the epidemic, we herewith publish in full the text of a public health bulletin issued by the United States Public Health Service, Washington, D.C:

“Spanish Influenza–3 Day Fever”

What is Spanish Influenza? Does it come from Spain?

The disease now occurring in this country and called “Spanish Influenza” resembles a very contagious kind of cold accompanied by fever, pains in the head, eyes, ears, back or, other parts of the body and feeling of severe sickness. In most of the cases the symptoms disappear after three or four days, the patient then rapidly recovers; some of the patients, however, develop pneumonia, or inflammation of the ear, or meningitis, and many of these complicated cases die. Whether this so-called “Spanish” influenza is identical with the epidemics of influenza of earlier years i not yet known.

Epidemics of influenza have visited this country since 1647. It is interesting to know that this first epidemic was brought here from Valencia, Spain. Since that time there has been numerous epidemics of the disease. In 1889 and 1890 an epidemic of influenza, starting somewhere in the Orient, spread first to Russia, and thence over practically the entire civilized world. Three years later there was another flare-up of the disease. Both times the epidemic spread widely over the United States.

Although the present epidemic is called “Spanish” influenza, there is no reason to believe that it originated in Spain. Some writers who have studied the question believe that the epidemic came from the Orient and they call attention to the fact that the Germans mention the disease as occurring along the eastern front in the summer and fall of 1917.

How Recognized

There is as yet no certain way in which a single case of “Spanish Influenza” can be recognized; on the otherhand recognition is easy where there is a group of cases. In contrast to the ordinary outbreaks of coughs and colds, which usually occur in the cold months, epidemics of influenza may occur at any season of the year, thus the present epidemic raged most intensely in Europe in May, June and July. Moreover, in the case of ordinary colds, the general symptoms (fever, pain, depression) are by no means as severe or as sudden in their onset as they are in influenza. Finally, ordinary colds do not spread through the community so rapidly or so extensively as does influenza.

In most cases a person taken sick with influenza feels sick rather suddenly. He feels weak, has pains in the eyes, ears, head or back, and may be sore all over. Many of the patients complain of feeling chilly, and with this comes a fever in which the temperature rises to 100 or 104. In most cases the pulse remains relatively slow.

In appearance one is struck by the fact that the patient looks sick. His eyes and the inner side of his eyelids may be slightly “bloodshot,” or “congested,” as the doctors say. There may be running from the nose, or there may be some cough. These signs of a cold may not be marked; nevertheless the patient looks and feels very sick. 

In addition to the feeling and appearance as already described, examination of the patients blood may aid the physician in recognizing “Spanish Influenza” for it has been found that in this disease the number of white corpuscles shows little or no increase above normal. It is possible that the laboratory investigation now being made through the National Research Council and the Untied States Hygienic Laboratory will furnish a more certain way in which individual cases of the disease can be recognized.

Course of the Disease

Ordinarily, the fever lasts from three to four days and the patient recovers. But while the proportion deaths in the present epidemic has generally been low, in some places the outbreak has been severe and deaths have been numerous. When death occurs it is usually the result of a complication. 

Cause of the Disease and How Spread

Bacteriologists who have studied influenza epidemics in the past have found in many of the cases a very small rod shaped germ called, after the discoverer, Pfeiffer’s bacillus. In other cases of apparently the same kind of disease there were found pneumococci, the germs of iebar pneumonia. Still others have been caused by streptococci, and by other germs with long names.

No matter what particular kind of germ causes the epidemic, it is now believed that influenza is always spread from person to person, the germs being carried with the air along with the very small droplets of mucus, expelled by coughing or sneezing, forceful talking, and the like by one who already has the germs of the disease They may also be carried about in the air in the form of dust coming from dried mucus, from coughing and sneezing, of from careless people who spit on the floor and on the sidewalk. As in most other catching diseases, a person who has only a mild attack of the disease himself may give a very severe attack to others.

What Should Be Done

It is very important that every person who becomes sick with influenza should go home at once and go to bed. This will help keep away dangerous complication and will, at the same time, keep the patient from scattering the disease far and wide. It is highly desirable that no one be allowed to sleep in the same room with the patient. In fact, no one but the nurse should be allowed in the room.

If there is cough and sputum or running of the eyes and nose, care should be taken that all such discharges are collected on bits of gauze or rag or paper napkins and burned. If the patient complains of fever and headache, he should be given water to drink, a cold compress to the head, and a light sponge. Only such medicine should be given as prescribed by the doctor. It is foolish to ask the druggist to prescribe and may be dangerous to take the so-called “safe, sure and harmless” remedies advertised by patent-medicines manufacturers.

If the patient is so situated that he can be attended only by some one who must also look after others in the family, it is advisable that such attendant wear a wrapper, apron, or gown over the sick room, and slip this off when leaving to look after the others.

Nurses and attendants will do well to guard against breathing in dangerous disease germs by wearing a simple fold gauze or mask while near the patient.

Will Person Have Disease 2nd Time

It is well known that an attack of measles or scarlet fever or smallpox usually protects a person against another attack of the same disease. This appears not to be true of “Spanish Influenza.” According to newspaper reports the King of Spain suffered an attack of influenza during the epidemic thirty years ago, and was again stricken during the recent outbreak in Spain.

How Guard Against Influenza

In guarding against disease of all kinds, it is important that the body be kept strong and able to fight off disease germs. This can be done by having a proper proportion of work, play, and rest, by keeping the body well clothed, and by eating sufficient, wholesome and properly selected food. In connection with diet, it is well to remember that milk is one of the best all around foods obtainable for adults as well as children. So far as a disease like influenza is concerned, health authorities everywhere recognize the very close relation between its spread and overcrowded homes. While it is not always possible, especially in times like the present, to avoid such overcrowding, people should consider the health danger and make every effort to reduce the home overcrowding to a minimum. The value of fresh air through open windows can not be over emphasized. 

Where crowding is unavoidable, as in street cars, care should be taken to keep the face so turned as not to inhale directly the air breathed out by another person.

It is especially important to beware of the person who coughs or sneezes without covering his mouth and nose. It also follows that one should keep out of crowds and stuffy places as much as possible, keep homes, offices, and workshops well aired, spend some time out of doors, walk to work if at all practicable – in short, make every possible effort to breathe as much pure air as possible.

“Cover up each cough and sneeze. If you don’t you’ll spread disease.”