UNC Historian Says NC Reopened Too Soon During 1918 Pandemic. Don’t Let That History Repeat.Historians in the News
tags: public health, North Carolina, pandemic
As some clamor to reopen North Carolina, they would do well to take a moment to listen to James Leloudis, a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and an expert on Southern history, who has studied how the global 1918 influenza pandemic tore through North Carolina.
Like today, the arrival of a deadly infectious disease in 1918 forced the closing of schools, churches, nonessential businesses and limited public gatherings. Also like today, there was a dangerous restlessness to return to normal.
The 1918 pandemic came through North Carolina in three waves: a small one in the summer of that year, a big one in the fall and winter and another smaller one in the winter of 1919.
“What gives me pause when I look back at 1918 is I think about the second wave,” Leloudis said. “People did social distancing and there was this sense of ‘that’s behind us and we can all move on’ and then the second wave hit and it was just devastating.”
By the end, 20 percent of the state – some 520,000 people – were infected and 13,644 died.
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