Flu at Elon College

Pam Richter – Class of 2011
December 1, 2010

While the swine flu outbreak in 2009 caused special precautions to be taken at Elon, it wasn’t anything like the flu outbreak that occurred on campus in 1918.  In 1918, there was a breakout of the Spanish influenza at the institution during the fall semester.

Students were not able to go home once the outbreak happened since the epidemic spreading across the nation.  The college was one of the first colleges in the state to open, and this allowed Elon to receive more medical attention available than other universities that did not open until later in the fall.  Despite this, there still wasn’t enough professional assistance available and students who didn’t catch the flu had to serve as temporary nurses.

The gym located in North Dorm was filled with cots for men and the women used the Lincoln Infirmary located on the third floor of West Dormitory and the beds in the dorms (West and Ladies Hall).  The seven students who had the most serious cases of the flu were sent to President William Allen Harper’s home to receive the most personalized medical attention.

There are only three known cases of students who died from the flu while at Elon in 1918.  It is estimated in total more than 300 cases of the flu were at the college.  Despite many people at the college being infected, classes were never officially suspended and within two weeks after the epidemic began, the college schedule was beginning to operate smoothly again.


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