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1918 Epidemic Protocols Are Almost The Same In 2020

The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic is the largest and most serious deadly plague in the form of an epidemic that has ever visited South Carolina. 86,415 cases and approximately 4,000 deaths were recorded in 1918 in this state in a course of only six weeks. Recent research of the 1919 Pandemic revealed not much has changed in one hundred years as far as official protocals.

Spanish Influenza made its first appearance in South Carolina on September 21, 1918 in Abbeville County. The sickness spread rapidly through the congested Piedmont region and from there through all of the state from the mountains to the sea.

On October 4, 1918 the illness hit Greenville County with an infection rate of 1,000 cases a day over the following four days. On October 7th of that year, the City of Greenville and Greenville County were placed under quarantine by the South Carolina Board Of Health. Greenville County Sheriff, Hendrix Rector was ordered by the board of health to enforce the elements of the quarantine and anyone that was found in violation would face prosecution.

Protocol in 1918 went this way: All movie theaters, churches, schools, colleges and all places of public gathering were ordered to be closed; crowds were prohibited in all hotels and stores as well as public conveyances such as tollies. People were advised to avoid crowds, and sick people. People were advised to stay away from sneezing people and if you did sneeze, sneeze into a handkerchief. Everyone was ordered to wash their hands and to avoid using a towel that others had used. Above all else they were advised to stay home.

In 1918 reports, Sheriff Rector went on record stating he had experienced the influenza and advised everyone that it was a mean disease and should be taken seriously. He said fifteen of his friends from this county and other counties had died from the Spanish Influenza.

1918 reports state doctors were recommending the treatment of the flu should include the use of Vicks VaporRub and Whiskey. Orders were issued to Sheriff Rector to seize all contraband whiskey (Greenville was a dry county at that time) and take it to the American Red Cross for medicinal use for influenza sufferers. Of course, the whiskey had to be prescribed by doctors.

The U.S Public Health Service employed 30 doctors and the American Red Cross furnished 40 nurses to fight the disease in South Carolina. They saved thousands of lives and were assisted by hundreds of volunteer workers in the field. Financial assistance from the federal government to South Carolina totaled $2,000 (two thousand dollars) and by the end of the six week spread of the disease the state had spent $1,800 of the two grand allocation.

As for Vicks VaporRub, the product was manufactured in Greensboro, North Carolina and the Vicks company had averaged profits of around $90,000 a year prior to the pandemic. As a result of the Spanish Flu outbreak the company's profits shot up to $2.9 million. Workers at the company's Greensboro factory work around the clock filling orders of the product.

By January 2, 1919 the outbreak was over even though a few cases lingered within the state. It had reached its peak in October and early November. Captain C.V Akin MD, the assistant South Carolina Health Officer, stated in early January, “The lesson learned from this epidemic, is when a nation is stricken each state must look out for itself and when a state is helpless each county must take care of its own problem.”

The protocols worked in 1918 – we pray they work in 2020.

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