I. The origin, spread and character of Spanish Flu

A. On American Origins

i. The Haskell County origin story and the other “Haskell” in Kansas.

The notice of epidemic deadly influenza on April 5, 1918 emanated from Haskell Institute and not from Haskell County. The proof is in the nearly identical wording of the April 5, 1918 notice in Public Health Reports and the report of Charles E. Banks, Senior Surgeon, U.S. Public Health Service, on the Haskell Institute outbreak, dated March 30 and published in the April 12 Indian Leader, the weekly newsletter of the institute.

Courtesy HathiTrust Digital Library

ii. The March 1918 influenza epidemic at Haskell Institute, Kansas.

The importance of Kansas and the Great Plains in the history of the 1918 pandemic can be reaffirmed by reference to the obituaries published in The Indian Leader. Their significance can scarcely be overstated. They put a human face on the horror of the influenza outbreak, possibly for the first time. And, in reports of the Camp Funston and Haskell Institute outbreaks, we glimpse, possibly for the first time in its history, the killer complex of virus and bacteria at work.

Haskell Institute, Lawrence, Kansas, circa 1900-1919. Courtesy kansasmemories.org.

iii. How did the Camp Funston Patient Zero story get started?

Albert Gitchell had no inkling, I am sure, that he was Patient Zero. Anyway, he was not Patient Zero. Because Patient Zero was a construction. And because Albert just wasn’t Patient Zero. The Opie medical commission the army sent to Camp Funston in July 1918 reported that the same disease had been endemic at the camp since it opened the previous September.