The Great Pandemic of 1918
Oklahoma State Summit
Opening Remarks Prepared for Delivery
By the Honorable Mike Leavitt
Secretary of Health and Human Services
March 29, 2006
The Great Pandemic also touched Oklahoma.
The pandemic made its first appearance on September 26th, by bracketing Oklahoma City with simultaneous eruptions in Tulsa (northeast of Oklahoma City) and Clinton (southwest of Oklahoma City). By October 4th, more than 1,200 Oklahomans in 24 counties had been afflicted with the flu.
The pandemic raged through Oklahoma throughout the terrible month of October.
In Tulsa, an emergency hospital was opened under the aegis of the Red Cross. Some 260 Tulsans were eventually admitted. Twenty eventually died.
Here in Oklahoma City, the Food and Drug Administration had to cancel a previously scheduled meeting. Three hundred people in the city were sick with the flu, making anything of the sort simply impossible.
Doctors spent themselves to the limit in helping those afflicted by the pandemic. In the city of Enid (north of Oklahoma City), a patient being cared for by Dr. David Harris remembered him chewing on a snatched drumstick, trailing broth across the bed sheets, and taking a pulse with his free hand.
But despite those exhausting efforts, the pandemic still took a terrible toll in Oklahoma.
No one can be sure of the total losses Oklahoma suffered, but when it comes to pandemics, there is no rational basis to believe that the early years of the 21st century will be different than the past. If a pandemic strikes, it will come to Oklahoma.
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