Spanish Influenza – Part 5

Compiled by Martha Valentine

Tuesday, 6th May 1919



Since the Back to Wangaratta there has been an after effect among the visitors from Rutherglen to that carnival.

Several of those who visited Wangaratta are now, or have been down with attacks of the “flu,” as it is commonly called, but it is pleasing to be able to say that the cases are all of a mild character.

On Sunday the ambulance made four trips to Nurse McEvey’s private hospital with patients.

Already there are several convalescents moving about the Main Street, persons who have had mild attacks and are able to get about.  These people are in what may be termed the throw off stage; they are not bad enough to keep to their beds but they are too bad to congregate in the centre of the town and expectorate about the footpaths and street channels.  These people should have a little consideration for others.  Everyone knows that it is nice for a man who has been in bed three to six days, with indications of having the prevailing deadly disease, to be about in the open but he should give consideration to the other fellow, his pal, and say “I should do penance for a few days and stay at home and then I will not be blamed if the other fellow gets it.”  A little common sense is all that is required and in a very little while the present epidemic would pass away.

Friday, 9th May 1919


At Monday night’s meeting of the Rutherglen Borough Council the following report was submitted by the Health Officer (Dr F.R. Featherstone: —

“I have the honor to report that during the past week between thirty and forty cases of influenza have occurred in the Shire and Borough of Rutherglen.  A few of these cases are definitely of the pneumonic type and all are more virulent than we had experienced recently.  All the first cases developed the disease subsequent to attendance at Wangaratta races or sports, or can be traced as contacts of such.  It is my opinion that these cases not being sporadic but occurring as a wave of infection from a centre where the disease is rife, it would be a wise precautionary measure to stop all gatherings in the Borough and close the schools for one week.”

Cr Gollings moved that the report be received.  Seconded by Cr Stewart and carried.

Cr Burch moved that the council adopt the Health Officer’s recommendations and that schools be closed for a week.  Seconded by Cr Chambers and carried.

The Mayor Moved that the ministers of churches be requested not to have services or Sunday school on Sunday next.  Seconded by Cr Stewart and carried.

Dr Featherstone stated that the last period Rutherglen had only had cases of ordinary influenza, but now it was here in its real form.  Up till the week before last there had been no pneumonic influenza cases, only cases of mild influenza.  On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week cases came in with a big rush and continued till the Friday or Saturday.  The number of cases was in the neighborhood of 50; of these, six were definitely pneumonic and the remainder of a sever type.  Practically every case could be traced to attendance at Wangaratta for sports or races, of the meeting of contacts from same, or to attending the Anzac Sunday gathering.  It began to look ugly but he was please to state that there were no fresh cases.  He had attended cases where the whole of the family were down and he had to take steps to procure accommodation.  He consulted Nurse McEvey with the idea of using her hospital as a temporary influenza hospital to take in cases where the whole of the family were down, etc.  This Nurse McEvey consented to.  Dr Rodda also consented to send his patients who were suffering from the influenza there.  Arrangements had been made for non-infectious cases to go to Nurse Patching’s hospital.  It was done as a means to meet the emergency as it appeared then.  The difficulty in equipping the school would be the obtaining of a staff.

Tuesday, 20th May 1919

DEATH – On Saturday evening about nine o’clock Walter Shaw, who was an inmate of Nurse McEvey’s Hospital, had his last call and passed away after a hard fight with an attack of pneumonic influenza.  The deceased who was 43 years of age was a native of this district and was brought up at his late father’s farm about five miles from Rutherglen.  When the first appeal for men was made Walter Shaw was one who came forward and put his services at the disposal of his country.  He was with the early troops in Egypt, and while at Gallipoli he was one who took part in the Lone Pine fight and came through it with minor wounds and shock.  He also saw service in France and about twelve months ago he was invalided home to Australia after having done his duty, and again settled near his old home.  About ten days ago Dr Featherstone visited him at his home and advised his removal to the hospital for treatment.  The much dreaded disease had got a firm hold, and in the intervening time between his admission to the hospital and his death it was a battle between a stout heart and strong spirit, supported by the best of medical skill and good nursing, and the demon “flu,” the latter ultimately claiming the returned soldier.  Deceased was a married man and leaves a widow and two grown up children to mourn their loss.  On Sunday the remains were given a military funeral; several members of the R.S.S.I.L. marched and acted as pall bearers while the members of the Rutherglen Brass Band, under the direction of Mr A. Warren, played the dead march as the cortege passed through the street.  At the Graveside Rev. J.L. Watt conducted an impressive burial service at the conclusion of which Messrs Warren and Hossack played “The Last Post.”

– – – – – – – – – – – –

DEATH AT CHILTERN VALLEY. – On Sunday, at Chiltern Valley, a very sad death took place, after a short and severe attack of influenza, the disease this time claiming Mrs M.P. Snow, a young married woman, who leaves her husband and three young children to mourn their great loss.  The deceased lady, who was a general favorite in the Valley district, was, previous to marriage, Miss Rodgers.


New Organisation formed.


With the advent of the second wave of the influenza epidemic, the Victorian Government has renewed the efforts which proved so successful in mitigating the effects of the first visitation.  Guided by experience gained earlier in the year, the authorities have provided a special organisation to take charge of the various activities connected with checking the outbreak.  At the head is Mr John McWhae, M.L.C., who, in the absence of Mr Bowser through ill health, is acting as Minister for Public Health.  He has called to his assistance a number of experts who have each been given a certain section of the organisation to control.  By this scheme the Government hopes to secure a general staff which will effectively cope with all the difficulties that arise during the present or future outbreaks.

The personnel of the Emergency Organisation is as follows; — Chief Medical Officer, Dr Robertson; Hon. Advisers, General Williams and Mr E.G. Dyason; Secretary, Mr D. Barry; Medical Controller, Dr W.S. Newton; Controller of Equipment and Supplies, Mr J. Love; Controller of Publicity, Mr A.S. Whyte; Controller of Transport, Dr R.E. Weigall; Controller of Nursing, Miss L. Jones; Supervisor of Voluntary and Municipal Aid, Cr M. Balfe; Controller of Finance, Cr E. Ward.

This organisation has already taken steps to increase the facilities for dealing with the present outbreak, and plans are now being laid to cope with any future visitation of greater magnitude.

Already a small pamphlet has been issued by the Health Department dealing with signs of the disease, how the patient should be treated, and precautions to be taken to avoid infection.  The following extracts may prove interesting at the present juncture; —


The disease must be deemed as probably present in every case of fever with headache and pains in the back and limbs.  There is usually more or less prostration, frequently with signs of catarrh and sometimes other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, bleeding at the nose, &c.  Very great prostration, rapid, difficult breathing, altered colour, pain in the chest, &c, indicate serious complications.

In every case the patient should be placed in bed and a medical practitioner summoned as speedily as possible.


By far the most important measure is the isolation of the sick.  If the patient is not removed, he or she should be kept in bed in a well-lighted, well-ventilated room.  No visitors should be permitted.  Only one person in charge of the patient at any time should enter the room and such person should take all possible precautions.  The usual rules should be observed to prevent the disease being carried to others by drinking vessels, spoons, towels, &c, after use in the sickroom.  Cases with complications should be kept separate from simple cases.


Crowds of all kinds should be avoided in streets, trams, trains, and indoor gatherings.  The disease is largely spread by patients with mild attacks, convalescents, and “carriers” coughing without restraint, so that fine particles are shot into the air.  All coughing should be smothered by a handkerchief or rag, which should afterwards be boiled or burnt.  Gargles, Sprays and Inhalations are decidedly useful.  A good simple gargle is made with a flat teaspoonful of boracic acid, one of common salt, and one of bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in a quart of warm water.  It should be used before leaving home and on returning.  It may also serve as a douche for the nostrils.  Inoculation with the special vaccine, according to experience in South Africa, probably lessens the liability to attack, and in more decided degree protects from complications.  Masks covering the mouth and nose, properly made and properly applied, give a considerable degree of protection.  They should be frequently renewed, and sterilised by boiling.  Those of the simplest effective make are best.  They should be used by all those brought in contact with patients.  There is no reason for any panic.  Fear is cowardly and very injurious.  Cheerfulness increases resistance and prevents complications.


With a view to successfully combating the visitation the Government has, on the advice of the medical officers, issued a series of regulations.  These provide that the occupier of every house wherein any person is suffering from influenza or the symptoms of influenza, shall report the occurrence in writing to the Town Clerk or Shire Clerk of the Municipal District in which the house is, and give the name, age and sex of the patient.  The medical officer has also to make a similar report.


Every patient is to be isolated at his or her residence, or if such residence is unsuitable in the opinion of the Officer of Health, at any special place provided for the purpose, and every patient treated elsewhere than at a public hospital shall be kept in isolation until the Officer of Health gives consent to his release.  It is also provided that every contact shall submit to such treatment or preventive measures (which may include isolation) as the Officer of Health specifies, and for such period as he directs.  No person other than the nurse or necessary attendants shall visit any patient in any private house except under the conditions specified by the Officer of Health.

Power is also given the Council to have a house-to-house visitation made, in order to ascertain whether any case of influenza exists or whether the regulations are being observed, and the Officer of Health or any officer authorised by the Council may isolate any house or part of a house wherein there is a patient.  The Council may also order the cleaning, purifying, ventilation, and disinfecting of houses, schools, churches, and other places of assembly by the occupier.


It is provided that any person who fails to comply with the regulations or is guilty of any neglect or disobedience of them is liable to a penalty not exceeding £20 and to a penalty not exceeding £5 nor less than £1 for each day during which such offence is continued, besides any cost or expense which may be incurred in remedying his default.


In fighting influenza, the Government has sought the assistance of Municipal Councils, and a special appeal has been sent throughout Victoria by the Acting Minister of Public Health asking the Councils for their co-operation and assistance.  In his letter, Mr McWhae points out that the formation of committees in every municipality, concentrating their efforts upon the needs of the people of the community with whom they are immediately associated, is an imperious necessity of the time.  The Government does not expect the municipal bodies to foot the whole bill for the expense they incur in providing hospitals, &c., for it has intimated its willingness to defray half the cost of any emergency services.

Friday, 23rd May 1919

BOROUGH OF RUTHERGLEN.ASSISTANCE for Washing Clothes Is required at Nurse McEvey’s Influenza Hospital.  Particulars at Town Hall or at the hospital. A.N. PRESSWELL, 22/5/19. Town Clerk.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

MEMORIAL SERVICE. – On Sunday afternoon last the Rev. J.L. Watt (Church of England), Rutherglen, preached a memorial service, at Wahgunyah, to the memory of the late Mrs Whitford and her eldest daughter, both of whom died recently in Melbourne, victims of the “flu.”  He referred to the loss sustained by the church and community of an earnest worker for charity and the church, the result of which would be apparent for some time, and spoke of the heartfelt sympathy extended to the bereaved husband and father.

– – – – – – – – – – – –



After a short but sharp attack of influenza Mrs Jessie Rogers, wife of Mr Andrew Rogers, of Chiltern Valley, died at Nurse McEvey’s Hospital on Tuesday last.  The deceased was a highly respected resident of the Chiltern district and was 63 years of age.  The interment took place at the Chiltern Cemetery, the Rev. J.L. Watt reading the burial service at the graveside.  The deceased leaves her husband and grown-up family to mourn their loss.

– – – – – – – – – – – –


On Thursday morning, George Rogers, son of the late Mrs Jessie Rogers, died at his residence, Murphy Street, Rutherglen, from an attack of influenza.  The deceased was a member of the M.U.I.O.O.F., and well-known throughout the district as a good workman, having been employed by Mr Ollson on the erection of mining plants.  He was only 29 years of age and leaves a widow and child to mourn the loss of their loved one.  The funeral took place on Thursday at Chiltern Cemetery, The Rev. J.L. Watt reading the burial service of the Church of England.  Mr R. Ready carried out the funeral arrangements, and several members of the M.U.I.O.O.F. attended the funeral.  This is the third death in the family within a week – mother, daughter (Mrs M. Snow) and son.

– – – – – – – – – – – –


On Wednesday Mrs R.S. Bray received word that her brother, J.W. Malmberg, had died the previous day in Melbourne from an attack of influenza.  Deceased was 34 years of age and leaves a widow and two children to mourn their loss.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.