13 March 2020

First Case of Spanish Flu Hits Utah In Salt Lake City

Newsies wearing masks. From the Salt Lake Telegram, Oct 18 1918

October 2 1918, the first case of the Spanish Flu in Utah was detected in Salt Lake City and was thought to have been brought to SLC from Evanston, Wyoming, by a family who came to attend the State Fair (which had opened just a few days previous). In the next few days several more cases of the Flu were documented, all from people who had recently traveled from out of state.

The first death from Spanish Flu in Utah was in Ogden: John Corgan, a traveling salesman from Omaha fell ill on a train and was hospitalized and then passed away on October 3. His body was shipped back to his home state in a hermetically sealed casket.

The large public gatherings of the State Fair and LDS Conference, both held the first week of October 1918, enabled the Flu to spread quickly during its incubation period. Symptoms of the Flu in the general population appeared soon after these events.

The Utah State Board of Health issued orders On October 10, 1918, to ban all public gatherings (schools, churches, lodge meetings, theaters, etc) effective immediately. The sick were diverted to the old Judge Mercy Hospital, which reopened specifically to treat Flu patients.

The ban on public gatherings was in effect until the end of 1918 (although Armistice Day of November 11 was a notable exception, which resulted in another uptick in Flu cases). 

The pandemic lasted well though 1919 with 9% of the SLC population falling ill and a fatality ratio of 5.6%.

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