A flu (influenza) pandemic occurs. The flu pandemic is caused by a new H1N1 flu strain. In New York, people with the flu are required to be isolated at home. In Chicago, movie theaters and theaters close and public gatherings are not allowed. In San Francisco, people who work for the public must wear masks and others are encouraged to wear masks as well. The American Public Health Association suggests that people avoid public transportation. In southeastern Minnesota, near Mayo Clinic, many public spaces such as theaters, churches, meeting places and some schools are closed.
The flu pandemic lasts from 1918 to 1920. From spring of 1918 to spring of 1919, the flu causes more than 550,000 deaths in the U.S. and more than 20 million deaths worldwide.
In the fall of 1918 at Mayo Clinic, people with the flu and other contagious illnesses are cared for in the isolation hospital. Keeping patients with these illnesses isolated and keeping high standards of cleanliness likely prevented infections and saved lives. The isolation hospital of 40 beds is soon filled. The hospital is short of medical staff, and everyone on staff must help where needed. For example, nurses sometimes help in the kitchen and the laundry.
Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Edward C. Rosenow invents a flu serum that is made up of a mixed vaccine that includes bacteria that cause pneumonia. Dr. Rosenow gives the serum to Rochester residents for free. While Dr. Rosenow doesn’t state that the serum works in protecting against the flu, he notes that the serum doesn’t cause harm and might help provide some protection. Mayo Clinic receives many requests for the serum, which is sent to people across Minnesota and the Midwest. In the end, the serum doesn’t work as a vaccine to protect against the flu. But it might have helped protect people against pneumonia after having the flu.