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Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute: The 1918 Flu Pandemic

In 1918, Arkansas and the world were reeling from the deadliest pandemic in human history: the Spanish flu.

The disease may have started in Haskell County, Kansas, from which it quickly spread to a military base crowded with World War I recruits. At North Little Rock’s Camp Pike, the infirmary was soon admitting up to a thousand men a day, leading to a quarantine.

Despite that, the disease soon migrated to Little Rock and into rural Arkansas, where many victims were likely never reported. By October, the state confirmed eighteen hundred cases of flu and the Arkansas State Board of Health declared a statewide quarantine, even as it offered such helpful hints as “Cover up each cough and sneeze; if you don’t you’ll spread disease.”

By the time the epidemic ended in 1919, seven thousand Arkansans were reported dead, though the toll was almost certainly higher. At least 675,000 Americans died of the Spanish flu and worldwide deaths may have numbered one hundred million.

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