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A man stands in front of a storefront window with posters announcing: Buy WSS; Peace plans have made little progress.
A man stands in front of a storefront window with posters announcing: Buy WSS; Peace plans have made little progress; Influenza has killed 9,000,000 in three months in entire world; Casualties not 66,000. [Credit: Maine Historical Society]

Because it was a rural state with a small population, Maine lacked a strong public health system. Tracking influenza under these circumstances was difficult. However, during the first week of October, state officials did send a report to the Public Health Service, stating that “the disease is epidemic at Eastport and Portland."

Correspondence between a physician in Maine, L.D. Bristol, and Surgeon General Rupert Blue sheds some additional light on the situation. In December, Dr. Bristol asked the Surgeon General to send "nurses for influenza work" in Portland. At the time, Portland's hospitals were overflowing with influenza patients and Dr. Bristol was concerned that Canadian soldiers who were returning from Europe via Portland would overwhelm the city's hospitals. Dr. Bristol also asked for a quarantine to imposed on all ships entering the state. The Public Health Service was unable to supply the nurses and they suggested instead that Bristol ask for assistance from the Red Cross.

Across Maine, influenza rates remained high during the fall, winter and spring. The disease gradually disappeared during the summer.


Population in 1920:

The majority of Maine's population lived in rural areas. None of Maine's cities or towns had a population over 70,000.

First Official Report of Influenza:
The Public Health Service did not require states to report influenza before September 27. Maine first reported the presence of influenza on October 4 but the disease was undoubtedly present in the state much earlier.

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