INFLUENZA. Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is an infectious disease. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort. Sore throat, fever and coughs are the most frequent symptoms. In serious cases, influenza causes pneumonia. This can be fatal, particularly for the young and the elderly. Although influenza is often confused with the common cold, influenza is much more severe. Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children, but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, sometimes called "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu".
Generally, influenza is transmitted through the air by coughs or sneezes. Influenza can also be transmitted by direct contact with bird droppings or nasal secretions, or through contact with contaminated surfaces. Influenza viruses can be inactivated by sunlight, disinfectants and detergents. As the virus can be inactivated by soap, frequent hand washing reduces the risk of infection.
In Dubuque the influenza epidemic of 1918 ranks as one of the city's worse health events. The population had already witnessed 611 deaths from the disease in 1917. By October 18, 1918, state health officials had ordered all theaters, schools, churches, movies, and lodge rooms across the state closed. In Iowa, influenza claimed 6,543 lives. In Dubuque, 823 people died.
Dubuque carpenters were removed from work sites to construct coffins. Football games and other gatherings were canceled. Mayor James SAUL prohibited local colleges from accepting day pupils until the epidemic had subsided. The Dubuque Electric Company put additional trolleys into service to reduce crowding that could lead to the disease spreading.
The influenza scare had another year to go. In 1919 more than 614 Dubuque residents died.
In 2009 Dubuque residents braced for the possibility of another flu epidemic. Swine-flu, better known as H1N1, threatened to close schools across the nation. By early 2010 several Iowans had died of the disease, but the initial threat of the disease seemed unfounded. More inclined to affect the young, one theory suggested that older Americans may have had some defense to the disease from their earlier bouts with Asian flu in the 1950s. Vaccines which were scarce in September 2009 were so widely available that by February 2010 those wishing the "shot" could receive it at many pharmacies.