Primary Resource

"Spread by Careless Folk" (October 2, 1918)

Published by the Big Stone Gap Post on October 2, 1918, "Spread by Careless Folk," is the first mention of the influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 in the newspaper.

Transcription from Original

Spanish Grippe Largely Due to Loose Personal Habits of Thoughtless People.

Richmond, Va., Sept.26.

Superstitious people who constantly watch for signs and portents will doubtless regard it as a significant fact that Spanish grippe alias influenza made its first appearance at Camp Lee on Friday the thirteenth of September.

But common sense mortals know, almost without being told that the malady is not in the least wise particular as to the date of its coming, and that once it gets an impetus, it respects neither high nor low, and travels with the wings of the wind. In plain English, Spanish influenza is more likely to come your way, or as the late James Whitcomb Riley might put it, these sneezing, coughing "gobble-uns will get you if you don’t watch out."

So the two important questions today are: What can one do to prevent the disease, or having "got it, what can one do to get rid of it? First of all, be it remembered that Spanish grippe is one of those spray-borne diseases whose spread depends largely upon the personal habits of individuals. Those who feel themselves in the clutches of the malady should therefore consider themselves in sneezes and coughs"—that is, to exercise the greatest care in the use of their handkerchiefs les they infect others. And by the same token, all persons, sick or well, should at all times abstain from putting their fingers in their mouths—a habit too common among children and not altogether unusual among adults. Take pains too, to avoid crowded ill ventilated places where many persons assemble.

If all men were religiously to observe these simple rules Spanish grippe—to say nothing of several other maladies—would be put to route and its victim would number only hundreds instead of untold thousands.

But humankind, alas, is slow in schooling itself to the observance of even the simplest measures for the preventure of disease and so Spanish influenza probably will soon be here, there and everywhere. It is good to know that the malady is seldom a menace to life. Of discomfort, however, it affords a plenty. First comes the sudden onset of a severe chill, followed by a headache and pain in the back and limbs. Acute catarrhal conditions of the throat and nose appear, also, and the fever for a while may go up to 103, possibly higher.

Those attacked by the disease should do promptly to bed, get a doctor and strictly obey his orders. And above all things they should conscientiously avoid passing the infection to others.