The six-week reign of the Span­ish flu in 1918

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Jac­ques Kelly THEN AND NOW jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

Re­ports of the great flu pan­demic filled the news col­umns in the last week of Septem­ber 1918.

The Bal­ti­more Sun reported deaths of sol­diers called up for ser­vice in World War I at Fort McHenry, Camp Meade and Edge­wood Arsenal: “The epi­demic which is sweep­ing the coun­try has fas­tened its grip on the army posts in the vicin­ity of Bal­ti­more.”

The pa­per also reported the death of “one of the first Bal­ti­more vic­tims of the flu,” a 21-year-old named Wal­ter L. Read, who lived on Park Heights Av­enue. He had en­listed in the Navy in Philadel­phia and con­tracted the dis­ease while sta­tioned at Great Lakes Naval Train­ing Sta­tion in Illi­nois.

The flu, which seemed to be­gin in mil­i­tary bases, soon swept civil­ian pop­u­la­tions. By Oc­to­ber, Bal­ti­more closed schools, race­tracks, the­aters, base­ball fields and houses of re­li­gion. Hal­loween cel­e­bra­tions were also shut down.

The first flu cases — many from the newly cre­ated Army base at Camp Meade — were taken to Mercy Hos­pi­tal. Re­ports in The Sun said that 75 Sis­ters of Mercy were sent to the base to as­sist the stricken. The base’s med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory of­fi­cer, Capt. George Shrader Mathers, died of flu-re­lated pneu­mo­nia at the old Al­bion Ho­tel on Cathe­dral Street.

“Dur­ing its six-week reign as the king of all diseases, Span­ish in­fluenza struck down 50,000 per­sons in the city and state and killed 5,160,” The Evening Sun reported in Novem­ber 1918.

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