OSU not immune from flu epidemic of 1918

The Military Hospital, where 200 influenza patients were treated in 1918.

The Military Hospital, where 200 influenza patients were treated in 1918.

Unfortunately, it is that time of year again: Flu season. On the upside, it is nowhere near as devastating as it was in 1918.

On October 11, 1918, State of Ohio health authorities ordered the closings of all schools, universities and other public places to help prevent the spread of the Spanish Influenza. Ohio State followed the edict and sent students home. Offices were allowed to remain open, as were classes for those enlisted men in the Signal Corps military training program at Ohio State.

Many of these students did take ill. Over the month that Ohio State was closed, 200 victims of the flu were treated at the military hospital on campus, where five died. The building had just been completed, and sat on the Northern edge of campus, just south of Woodruff Avenue, near the barracks. Women faculty members, as well as a few women students with nursing training, assisted medical staff of the hospital.

Ohio State reopened on November 12, 1918, even though the disease was claiming victims. All totaled, at least 17 deaths of alumni and former students can be attributed to the flu. At least three faculty members lost spouses. Ohio State also lost 41 alumni or students in the First World War, many of whom succumbed to illness in the camps. Worldwide, the illness killed an estimated 21 million people, of which just over a half million were Americans.

As a result of the illness, the usual four-day break at Thanksgiving was reduced to one day. A break for Christmas was also taken, but classes continued into mid-January. It appears that football games continued, despite the closing.

Filed by C.N.

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