With the current COVID 19 pandemic many have asked about how the Aurora community was affected by the Spanish Flu outbreak that began in 1918. Unfortunately there is nothing in our Aurora archives relating to the 1918 pandemic.
Nationally approximately 500,000 Americans died from the flu in 1918. The highest rate of occurrence and mortality existed in the nation’s World War I military training camps since soldiers lived in close proximity to one another. Over 300,000 soldiers contracted the disease with nearly 20,000 dying. Camp Sherman near Chillicothe was the hardest hit with 1,200 soldiers dying.
Across the nation attempts were made to stop the flu’s progression. Colleges were closed and dormitories were converted to hospitals. The Ravenna City Board of Health ordered churches and schools to close. The board also ordered movie theaters, lodges, pool rooms, and libraries to close. Funerals and large public gatherings were banned.
As a result of the steps taken it was reported in the Oct. 14, 1918 edition of the Ravenna Republican that "the local situation is well in hand and at the present time there are no cases of a serious character reported in Ravenna homes."
A search of the Aurora Historical Society’s files revealed information detailing a malaria outbreak in Aurora that began in the late summer of 1934 and extended into the early months of 1935. While it was by no means as deadly as the 1918 nor the current pandemic, there are numerous similarities as to how the community dealt with the outbreak.
The outbreak of malaria was not endemic to Aurora. While the evidence was incomplete, it was believed that it was introduced by an infected individual. The first reporting of the outbreak was on Sept. 3, 1934. The local district health commission found that seven individuals had recurrent chills and fever. Blood test indicted that two carried the malaria parasite.
As word spread, it was discovered that 22 cases had an onset of malaria prior to Sept. 3. Ten additional individuals were affected in September and five more cases in October for a total of 37 cases. Aurora population was approximately 1,000. Early diagnosis of the disease was made difficult since many infected reported mild symptoms therefore did not seek medical attention.
In addition, in several cases the physician made an incorrect diagnosis since the symptoms of a headache, back and leg pain were consistent with the flu. Another symptom of those infected was that vomiting was reported in 11 cases mainly among children. Individuals reported that they had daily chills either throughout their illness or after one or two typical 48-hour cycles.
Geographically the first case was that of an individual that lived near the "pond." (Sunny Lake).
A house painter who had malaria had traveled to Florida in April and had a relapse in May after returning to Aurora. While a blood smear tested negative, it was surmised that he may have infected a railroad section hand living in a "shanty" at the center of the outbreak near the pond.
On Sept. 8 the painter was found sick in bed and tested positive and had been sick since June with weakness and recurring chills. A majority of the cases were within a quarter mile of the pond. Six individuals lived on two different farms two miles southeast of the center of the village. However, all of the infected individuals had made trips into the village.
Demographically the breakdown of those infected was 24 males and 13 females. Seven were under 10 years of age. Three were 60 years or older. The youngest was 4 and the oldest was 71.
The health commission conducted a survey of the community and found a concentration of mosquitoes along the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River winding through the Aurora Country Club golf course and then through the north side of the village.
Further determination of the exact location was made difficult since oiling of the pond and other areas of the village had commenced prior to the survey by the health commission. Areas of breeding near the village were oiled within a few days. Repeated treatment was conducted in 10-day intervals until cold weather arrived in the fall.
The State Department of Health required infected patients to remain quarantined inside screened areas until four negative blood test taken a minimum of 24 hours apart determined that the parasite was no longer present. In addition, patients had to sign an agreement that they would complete a regime of either quinine for eight weeks or five days of atabrine therapy (synthetic quinine). They would also have to submit to a blood test after their treatments. The measures were taken in the hope prevent an outbreak the following year.
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