Flu in El Dorado County

image of main street parade during flu of 1918-1919

1918-1921 Devastation of Spanish Influenza

In 1918, a virulent strain of influenza spread around the world, with an estimate of 500 million infected, and affecting soldiers on both sides of World War I as well as the homefront worldwide. It was called the “Spanish flu” when King Alfonso of Spain was one of the early victims.

With no antibiotics at that time, and limited information about the actual cause of the disease, quarantine was the best way to combat it. Homes that reported the flu were considered quarantined – no one could go in or out. 100 years ago, this was the usual course of action for all kinds of diseases that we now vaccinate for and treat with medicine, such as measles, polio, typhus and others. We have once again used quarantine to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The photograph above is from the County Museum's collection shows a parade on Main Street,
probably for the first anniversary of the World War I Armistice on November 11, 1919,
with participants wearing face masks! Mabel Lyon is riding on the float.


flu warning newspapers 1    flu warning newspapers 2


Spanish Influenza was particularly prevalent in 1918-1919 and lingered through 1921. It is estimated that 50 to 100 million died from this highly infectious disease. Coinciding with the devastation of World War I, it is considered one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.


"Uncle Sam's Advice on 'Flu" is the headline published in the Mountain Democrat on November 16, 1918. The Surgeon General, Rupert Blue is giving familiar advice then as it is now. These are excerpts from the article.

The newspaper article from over 100 years ago, in the November 6, 1918 Mt. Democrat explains the very familiar recommendations for how to avoid the 'flu!


11-16-1918 County ordinance newspaper clipping

On the same page is a notice of the new County Ordinance "for the Protection of the Public Health and Requiring all Persons to Wear Gauze Masks while on Streets or Highway, or at Public Gatherings" The penalty for violation was a fine of not more than five dollars and not more than five days in jail for the first offense – with the max of $50 and 50 days in jail for subsequent offenses. The Board of Supervisors adopted this ordinance on November 11, 1918, (coincidentally the day of the cease fire of World War I, known as Armistice Day)



County ordinance requiring
face masks (Mt. Democrat,