Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 42° Cloudy
News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Pullman: 300 Washington State students sick with Spanish flu

About 300 students were sick with the Spanish fluat Washington State College at Pullman, and the president of the Spokane County Medical Society appealed for at least three Spokane physicians to travel immediately to Pullman to tend to them, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Oct. 23, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)
About 300 students were sick with the Spanish fluat Washington State College at Pullman, and the president of the Spokane County Medical Society appealed for at least three Spokane physicians to travel immediately to Pullman to tend to them, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Oct. 23, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The Spanish flu struck a new target: Washington State College at Pullman.

The situation had become so bad among the students “that a desperate call for medical aid was sent out” by the president of the Spokane County Medical Society. He appealed for at least three Spokane physicians to travel immediately to Pullman to tend to the 300 students who were afflicted.

There was no hope in Spokane for a relaxation on the two-week-long closure of schools, churches, theaters and other public gatherings. Another 300 cases of flu were reported in one day in Spokane, the most in any city in the state.

In fact, the city health officer vowed to to be even more strict. He said he was willing to go after Spokane’s high society.

“It has been brought to my attention that some people have disobeyed the order by giving private social affairs at their homes,” said Dr. J.B. Anderson. “Upon the first information I have that such a thing is being planned, we will appear on the scene and arrest the ringleaders without respect to their prominence or social standing.”

A number of people resorted to superstitions in an attempt to ward off the disease. The Spokane Daily Chronicle said that “one of the popular weapons is a little sack of asafetida (a pungent spice), concealed in the clothing.” Others believed the odor “prevents the flu germ from getting in its work.”

Another citizen suggested “putting sulphur in your shoes — it’s a sure knockout.”

Finally, “many a housewife dismisses the suggestion of drugs, and says simply, “Eat onions.’”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.