Spanish Influenza Epidemic: The Final Weeks

On November 28, 1918, the Health Board again made an order to close all theaters, pool halls, dance halls, and places of entertainment. The schools were scheduled to open on Monday, December 2, but by law, they would not be allowed to open if it was declared there was an epidemic in Silver Bow County. The Silver Bow County Medical Society went as far as to send a written request to Dr. Dan J. Donohue of the State Board of Health to investigate the conditions of influenza in the city and decide the best way of handling them.

Essentially, all of the restrictions that had been lifted prior to the end of the War were set back in place. The board planned on the community following the restrictions completely and were prepared to call the Governor to send troops if it became necessary.

Butte Miner, December 8, 1918

On December 4, the board discussed several merchants who had asked that the stores be opened at their usual hours. The businesses promised to not allow more than a limited number of people in their businesses at a given time, no advertisements would be placed in the newspaper, no goods would be exchanged or returned. One business even suggested that a representative of the Board of Health be placed at each store, and paid by the store, to see that the health law was strictly enforced. Business in Butte had been closed for a good portion of the past two months and business owners were eager to be up and running again. On December 7, 1918, a resolution was passed ordering all business houses to reopen and conduct business as usual on December 9. However, the churches, theaters, dance halls, and public gathering places were to remain closed. After further discussion, the board decided to allow the saloons, cigar stores, pool halls, barber shops, and restaurants to open on December 9 as well.

It was reported that some doctors were not reporting their cases of influenza to avoid having homes put under quarantine. To get around the quarantine rule, the doctors noted the cases as pneumonia and not as influenza. The board ordered that all forms of pneumonia be declared contagious and all cases must be reported to the Board of Health.

By December 18, the emergency hospital in the Washington School was deemed unnecessary as the hospitals were uncrowded enough to accommodate influenza patients. The hospital would be closed on December 30, 1918. The beds and materials would be moved and later used at the County Poor Farm.

By early 1919, Spanish Influenza only took up a small portion of the Board of Health’s minutes. By May of 1919, there was no mention at all.

In the end, approximately 1,000 Butte citizens would die from Spanish Influenza from 1918 to 1919.



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