Influenza Pandemic Arrives in Dallas — 1918
by Paula Bosse
In line at the Love Field “spraying station” (click for larger image)
by Paula Bosse
I write this as the U.S. is bracing for the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus which has just been declared a world-wide pandemic by the World Health Organization — this inescapable news item reminds me of a previous post I wrote about the local response to another major epidemic. In 2014, Dallas (of all unlikely places) was ground-zero in the U.S. for a feared Ebola outbreak — back then I wondered how Dallas had handled health crises in the past, specifically the spectre of the Spanish Influenza, which, like the coronavirus, swept around the globe. So I wrote “When the Spanish Influenza Hit Dallas — 1918,” and I have to say, it was pretty interesting. The flu first hit the regional military bases during World War One: Love Field, Camp Dick at Fair Park, and Camp Bowie in Fort Worth. It wasn’t long before people beyond the WWI camps were contracting the Spanish Flu, and then it just spread and spread and spread.
The photo above, from December, 1918, shows Love Field military personnel waiting in line to be “sprayed” — the caption reads:
Love Field, Dallas, Texas: Preventative Treatment against influenza.
The line at the spraying station.
Here’s the throat-sprayer waiting inside the tent:
Dallas Morning News, Oct. 1, 1918
I’m not sure how effective this spraying was, but the advice given to Dallasites in 1918 is still good today: wash your hands, keep your surroundings clean, and do not spit in streetcars!
Sources & Notes
Top photo is from the National Archives at College Park; more info is here.
Second photo, showing the inside of the “spraying station,” is from the Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine; more info is here.
For a more detailed post about how Dallas dealt with the Spanish Influenza, read the 2014 Flashback Dallas post “When the Spanish Influenza Hit Dallas — 1918.”
Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
[…] More on the Spanish Influenza pandemic can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “Influenza Pandemic Arrives in Dallas — 1918.” […]
“I’m not sure how effective this spraying was”
The spray was Dichloramine-T and touted as being effective:
But according to the medical department of the US Army:
“There is no general evidence that prophylactic treatment reduced the incidence of disease in the commands employing it.”
Quote from the middle of this page:
I grew up in Dallas and never heard a word about the 1918 pandemic until I heard Alistair Cook mention it on “America” in 1970. The other great epidemic in Dallas, in 1911-12, was cerebral meningitis. I had never heard of that one until I found an article on line about the epidemiologists from “back East” who came down to help the health department and ended up developing a serum from horse urine (I think). There were “pest tents” set up on the edge of town to house the victims.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wow! This is very interesting. It’s so interesting to see how cities handle pandemics like this over time. I thought the part about not spitting in the street cars was quite funny! Thanks for sharing.
[…] What would 2020 be without mention of the ever-present coronavirus pandemic? Several years ago I wrote about Dallas’ experiences with the Spanish Flu in 1918, but seeing that this was the year that was, I wrote another, if only to use this photo showing men based at another major WWI training camp, Love Field, lining up to be “sprayed” as a preventive influenza treatment. From the March post “Influenza Pandemic Arrives in Dallas — 1918.” […]