About

In autumn 1918 through the spring of 1919, influenza killed approximately 5,000 Montanans, one percent of the state’s population. My Master’s capstone discusses why Montana suffered one of the four highest mortality rates during the pandemic.

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2 thoughts on “About

  1. I found your capstone most interesting, especially the discussions surrounding Butte, but not so much from a focused medical angle but rather from a broader historical, sociological and anthropological view.

    For example, those trying to combat the influenza epidemic of 1918 perhaps could have used a few pointers from the US Army’s Special Forces who routinely work with impoverished foreign populations under usually deplorable conditions. It seems to me that it would have been smarter in this case to attack the epidemic not by external quasi-government decree but by enlisting the fully cooperative aid of the two most important institutions of the target population – the church and the saloon – followed by the family. But to do that you first had to more fully understand that population and its unique characteristics, and most especially its history and culture.

    I wonder if it would be possible to provide the reader some information about the author, the author’s university, and the author’s current endeavors on your blog, or perhaps just an easy link to your open LinkedIn profile.

    (I have side interests in the unrecorded history of the 19th century Famine-Irish and the current state of boys’ education in America, but I do not subscribe to social media.)

    Again, good work. And thank you.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. There were two particular challenges to controlling influenza in 1918 that I find extremely interesting. The first was that for some time, physicians and researchers did not fully understand the cause of the illness. Many did not even believe that it was influenza, as it was unlike any ever seen before. All contemporary and tradition remedies proved ineffective for treatment of the illness. The second, and probably largest factor, was censorship. This was wartime, after all, and authorities were loath to release information about the severity of the pandemic, even if was the truth, in order to keep morale high. Cities and communities did not understand the seriousness of the situation until faced with it. Thus, they often had little time to prepare and place public health measures in effect before influenza entered their area. I’m fascinated by the line (usually quite thin and gray) between public health and civil liberties. I believe the 1918-1919 pandemic perfectly illustrates the challenges authorities face when considering these factors.
      If you are interested in my work, please visit http://www.bestamericanhistory.wordpress.com. This is my other blog where I post short pieces on various aspects of American History. The latest post contains a link to an article I recently completed that discusses the pandemic in Butte, MT, including morbidity and mortality rates among different occupational and ethnic groups. If interested, please also find me on LinkedIn for more information on my education and occupation/training experience: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jolberding.
      I’m always happy to answer any questions about my work and appreciate any comments or insights.

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