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A century apart, pandemics have parallels in WVU’s response

nurses from 1918 era

Nurses in Morgantown circa 1918. (West Virginia Regional History Center and Special Collections)

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History has a way of reminding us that we are not the first generation to experience either hardship or the spread of disease. John Cuthbert, curator and director of the West Virginia Regional History Center and Special Collections at West Virginia University Libraries, said the parallels between WVU’s response to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and COVID-19 are as interesting as they are telling.


“WVU shut down, Morgantown shut down everything including school and churches. No gatherings of groups of people were permitted. They didn't use the term social distancing like we do today, but that was basically the major thing they were stressing to people.”

“This is certainly a time that we’re all going to be remembering for the rest of our lives. It’s hard to believe at times, for sure. As you are experiencing something like this and you see the impact it’s having and just how much it’s sweeping through everywhere in the world, you realize just how fragile everything is. It’s a reminder to appreciate each moment we get.” 

“It’s incredible how little we have learned in responding to such epidemics over the last century.” — John Cuthbert, curator and director of the West Virginia Regional History Center and Special Collections at WVU Libraries


“Guard and protect yourselves by using all precautions against the disease that has resulted in such havoc among us. While the ban has been lifted, it is sincerely hoped that the people will not allow themselves to become careless or indifferent to the necessary sanitary measures not only protecting themselves against the influenza but also against other contagious diseases.” —Morgantown Health Officer W. C. Kelley, The Morgantown Post (1918)


Link to original story: 2020 pandemic in Morgantown closely resembles 1918 pandemic in Morgantown



CONTACT: John Cuthbert
Director and Curator
WVU Libraries

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