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Looking back: Influenza returns

  • The front page of the Greenfield Recorder from Jan. 1, 1919. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 4/24/2020 4:27:43 PM
Modified: 4/24/2020 4:27:30 PM

Editor’s Note: The Greenfield Recorder searched its archives to find coverage of the Spanish influenza and pneumonia pandemic that swept the world 102 years ago. Here is the exact text of an article published Jan. 1, 1919 in the Greenfield Recorder.

The influenza epidemic which ravaged Greenfield, Turners Falls and Millers Falls in October and broke out again a few weeks ago in Sunderland, has been afflicting two other county towns for a week or more, South Deerfield and Conway, the former suffering the most. Eight deaths from it have occurred in South Deerfield during the week and there are many cases of illness, in some cases entire families being prostrated. On last Friday, the board of health there adopted a general closing notice, all public places being ordered to shut their doors and gatherings of any sort being prohibited. Conditions appear to be improving now, however, only 10 new cases being reported in the last three days. If the improvement continues, the board of health may decide to rescind its closing order by the last of the week.

Deerfield has not been hit by the epidemic so far, only one mild case being reported there, and the closing rules do not affect that part of the town. Deerfield Academy was to have reopened yesterday, and the board of health was willing, it said, provided that South Deerfield and Sunderland people did not attend. This would have meant a greatly reduced attendance so Principal Frank Boyden decided to wait another week to see how conditions develop. Sunderland’s situation has pretty well cleared up and Whately, which also suffered from the return of the epidemic, has been pretty well freed from it.

All the towns affected suffer from lack of nurses, which has led to a discussion of whether it is not advisable for small communities to unite in nursing districts after the plan now followed in school superintendency districts. The public health nurse idea has been so great a success in larger communities that it is believed to be an excellent thing for small towns to consider. South Deerfield and Sunderland citizens are discussing whether it would not be a good thing for the two villages to join in hiring a district nurse. Being only two miles apart and connected by a state highway, it seems that a nurse equipped with an auto could cover both without great inconvenience.

District nurse work in these two towns have important results, especially in Polish and Lithuanian homes where the epidemic seems to have had the most fatal results. The practical lessons in hygiene, sanitation and food which a district nurse gives would tend to reduce mortality very greatly. Frequent visits by the nurse invariably leads to the winning of the confidence of the foreign-born population and her suggestions are more apt to be followed than those of a physician, whose calls are necessarily less frequent. This has been the experience of other towns in this work and it is almost certain to result in South Deerfield and Sunderland if the experiment is tried.

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