In the fall of 1918, Spanish Influenza, the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, had come to Stanford University. The disease was first detected in the United States that spring at an Army base in Kansas. World War I transformed the campus. Virtually all male undergrads volunteered as uniformed privates in the Student Army Training Corps.
The following is quoted from the Stanford Alumni Association Magazine “Stanford,” July 2020:
“Men in Barracks Are Quarantined —- Epidemic Reported Not Serious
Ten Don’ts for those who do not want influenza.
Don’t attend public gatherings, mass meetings and theaters.
Don’t ride in crowded cars, walk instead.
Don’t live in overcrowded houses.
Don’t close all the windows. Influenza didn’t fly in.
Don’t visit your friend who has influenza or just the grippe.
Don’t shake hands.
Don’t put your hands in your mouth.
Don’t work too hard. Keep in good condition.
Don’t wear too few clothes.
Don’t eat too little of wholesome and properly selected food.”
Note that the author didn’t suggest that the reader notice that there was no “don’t leave your homes, close schools, churches and businesses.”
One hundred years ago, the general public understood how diseases spread. Politicians did not mandate any of the “Ten Don’ts,” as stated above. Common sense and reasoning dictated human behavior of individuals, institutions, and businesses. They dictated quarantine, not politicians.
Quoted from the July 2020 Stanford article is noted below:
“The pandemic wasn’t Stanford’s first fight against contagion. In 1903, a typhoid outbreak that was traced to a local dairy killed nine students. Professor Ray Lyman Wilbur, class of 1896, MA ’97, MD ’99, the campus physician, began rising at 4:30 a.m. to ensure that no milk left the offending farm; a shotgun was at the ready should anyone doubt his seriousness.”
In retrospect, it is amazing to me with all the improvements in science and technology in the last 100 years that all true U.S. scientists did not recommend immediately the “Ten Don’ts!” Why did we have our current confusion?
Remember all individual rights accorded by the Declaration of Independence, i.e., “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and by the U.S. Constitution. All rights includes responsibility of individuals to respect the rights of others. Compulsory actions can only change human behavior when the individuals agree to them.
Wake up, America!
Ten year high school science teacher and graduate of the 1954 Class of Stanford University with a BS in Biology.