September 30, 1918 (100th Anniversary)
On September 30,1918 the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported three seamen from a steamer out of Burin 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.
The Allies of World War I came to call it the Spanish flu, primarily because the pandemic received greater press attention after it moved from France to Spain in November 1918. Spain was not involved in the war and had not imposed wartime censorship.
Within two weeks, of the first identified cases in Newfoundland 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