The Transylvania Times -

Picturing The Past: Quarantine: In The Past, The Only Tool In The Fight Against Infectious Diseases


Last updated 5/25/2020 at 12:22pm

The orders by the County Board of Health was passed on Oct. 14, 1918, to slow the spread of Spanish Influenza in the county.

During the second decade of the 20th century North Carolina enacted a Quarantine Law requiring physicians, parents and teachers to report every case of whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, smallpox, scarlet fever and typhoid fever to the county quarantine officer.

The quarantine officer then sent a yellow placard with the name of the disease to the home to be posted on the front of the house. He also sent instructions for the treatment and control of the patient.

The long-time county health officer, Dr. C.W. Hunt, was Transylvania County's first quarantine officer. He worked diligently to inform the public of the dangers of contagious diseases and improve the health of all county citizens through weekly health education articles in the Brevard News. He emphasized that reporting cases showed people were interested in reducing illness and saving the lives of children.

Those who failed to report contagious diseases or to obey the law could be charged and fined.

Transylvania County had a legally-enforced quarantine, which many counties did not. Brevard Judge M.H. Justice was noted for promoting compliance with the law.

In August 1917, one case of scarlet fever was reported in Penrose, and in September two cases were reported in Davidson River and Brevard, along with a case of whooping cough in Brevard.

By the fall of 1918 the Spanish Influenza had made its way to the United States and was the greatest concern to public health. It reached its peak in North Carolina during October and November, ultimately causing 13,644 deaths in the state.

The Transylvania County Board of Health took action to limit the spread of the disease by closing churches, schools and places of entertainment, as well as placing restrictions on businesses in mid-October.

In early December it was announced that churches could reopen for one weekly service after it was certified that their community had been clear of the influenza for 10 days. Schools reopened soon after.

When Dr. Hunt retired as county health and quarantine officer in January 1919, he was praised for "his insistence on an early and strict enforcement of a county-wide quarantine against the influenza," which greatly helped reduce its impact on county residents.

Dr. W.J. Wallis, who had long served on the County Board of Health, was elected to fill the position. He was quarantine officer for the next five years. In February 1920, Dr. Wallis and the County Board of Health again enacted quarantine orders limiting public gatherings to stop the resurgence of the influenza.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments, or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or (828) 884-1820.)


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