Tag Archives: Okak

Influenza Epidemic Raging

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 2, 1919

Influenza Notices were  posted on all  Public Buildings.

In March 1919 Newfoundland  and Labrador was being ravaged with the dreaded Influenza Epidemic.

The local government and the churches were in the fore front of the fight against the spread of the dreaded disease. In St. John’s, on March 2, 1919,  the Catholic Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, issued a Pastoral Letter removing any obligation of fast and abstinence during the 40 days of Lent. The rationale was that if Roman Catholics were observing the ritual Lenten fast and rules of abstinence that they might be weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to the pandemic.

On March 12, 1919 a notice was read in all churches that:

“Owing to the prevalence of influenza among the people, His Grace the Archbishop by the authority of the Holy See, grants during this present Lent, a general dispensation from the fast, except on Good Friday”

A variation on the same notice was read in the churches of all denominations.

The move, thought small was unprecedented. One of the many steps that were taken to try and stop the spread of the disease.

St. John’s as an international port of call for ships from around the world was exposed to all the good and ill that came with its geographical location. In 1918 with the influenza epidemic raging throughout the world, it was only a matter of time before the province became vulnerable to the disease.

The pandemic reached Newfoundland on 30 September 1918 when a steamer carrying three infected crewmen docked at St. John’s harbour. Three more infected sailors arrived at Burin on October 4 and they travelled by rail to St. John’s for treatment. A doctor diagnosed the city’s first two local cases of influenza the following day and sent both people to a hospital. Within two weeks, newspapers reported that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

Soon after the outbreak, government officials closed many public buildings in St. John’s, including schools, churches, and meeting halls, and introduced quarantine regulations for incoming ships. Many outport communities also closed public buildings to curb the spread of influenza. By the time the epidemic was over, 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s and 170 more in outport Newfoundland.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador, where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Room Provincial Archives explore Death Records 1918-1919.  Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918- June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland.  Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007) http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396

 

 

The Spanish Lady in Newfoundland and Labrador

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 30, 1918

Photo Credit: Volunteer nurses, 1918
These volunteer nurses worked at the King George V Seamen’s Institute during the Spanish influenza pandemic. Located in downtown St. John’s, the institute served as a temporary 32-bed hospital to help treat influenza victims.
Photo by J.C. Parsons. Reproduced from The Newfoundland Quarterly 18.4 (1918), 21.

On September 30,1918 the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported three seamen from a steamer were admitted to hospital with the flu.

The next day, the Daily News reported that two cases from the schooner Ariceen of Twillingate were taken to hospital. The Spanish Lady or Spanish Flu was in Newfoundland.

Within two weeks, the local newspapers were reporting that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

By mid-October, Medical Officer of Health N.S. Fraser had closed the city’s schools, theatres, concert halls, and other public buildings to help prevent the virus from spreading.

In the last week of November 1918, 1,586 cases of influenza and 44 deaths were reported in 28 communities across the island. The highest incidences occurred in St. Mary’s Bay which reported 628 cases.

By February 1919, the epidemic had largely ended on the island, although traces of it remained until the summer.

Before it disappeared, the disease killed 170 people in outport Newfoundland. 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide, making it one of the largest and most destructive outbreaks of infectious disease in recorded history.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Room Provincial Archives Division  explore Death Records 1918-1919. Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special  File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918-June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007)  http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396