Which cities fought the 1918 pandemic best?

Those that acted early, here is a new and noteworthy paper.

What worked: Early school, church, and theater closures.  The estimate for banning public gatherings depends on the test used.

What didn’t work: Closing dance halls, isolating flu cases, banning public funerals, and making influenza notifiable.

Early-acting cities were especially effective at stopping many casualties at the first flu wave, rather than being devastated by later waves as well.  Letting down one’s guard too early was a common problem.

The authors stress that this study used only 17 cities with highly correlated explanatory variables.  Still, in a case like this some chance at knowledge is better than no knowledge.  Here is a related paper. Here is a New York Times discussion of the results.


Closing churches is good and closing dance halls is bad? I'll drink to that.

Some isolated towns in Colorado simply put armed guards on the roads and at the railway station and didn't let anyone in or out. They survived fine.

Similarly, the governor of American Samoa heard about the epidemic by telegraph and turned away all shipping for months. Many Pacific Islands were badly hit (no innate resistance), but American Samoa came through well.

You also are more likely to feel obligated to go to school and church while feeling sick, then to a dance hall. Theatre could either be reluctance to waste tickets, or the inherently lower physically difficulty (which applies to church and school as well) of sitting watching a play vs. dancing . No one wants to go dance when they have the flu, pandemic or no.

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