“In the Present Uncertain Situation”: Scarlet Fever at the University of Illinois, 1914

Man smiles from inside the Emergency Hospital during the 1914 Scarlet Fever outbreak. Image 0011593.

As life drastically changes for students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois and across the country, it may help to remember that this is not the first time that the University has faced a disruptive health crisis. Multiple outbreaks have peppered the University’s past, including the flu, smallpox, and scarlet fever. In 1914, a scarlet fever epidemic disrupted student life and spurred the University into action.

The Daily Illini reported the first student with scarlet fever in 1914 on February 10. By February 12, four more students were confined to the Burnham Hospital in Champaign. The spread of scarlet fever prompted Thomas A. Clark, the Dean of Men, to put out a statement, “In the present uncertain situation with regard to scarlet fever no one can afford to take unnecessary risk.” Clark urged sick students to see a physician, to isolate themselves until their diagnosis was confirmed, and not to attend class if they were sick. [1] Continue reading ““In the Present Uncertain Situation”: Scarlet Fever at the University of Illinois, 1914”

Smallpox Outbreak, 1938

This post is part five of the exhibit “Epidemic! Disease on Campus, 1918-1938.”


Smallpox Notice
February 25, 1938
Record Series 33/1/806

In late February of 1938,  cities and towns across the state of Illinois showed a marked increase in diagnosed smallpox cases.  Ten victims appeared in the Twin Cities and the Director of the State Department of Health A.C. Baxter indicated an impending epidemic for Champaign-Urbana as a result of the new cases.  Upon Baxter’s advice, President A.C. Willard directed that all students, faculty, and staff receive vaccination or remain away from campus for 16 days.  Notices like the poster located to the right were placed throughout campus. Continue reading “Smallpox Outbreak, 1938”

Tuberculosis Robs, Public Health Protects

This post is part four of the exhibit “Epidemic! Disease on Campus, 1918-1938.”

Despite the progress made controlling tuberculosis in the early 20th century, it was still the leading cause of death of adolescents and young adults through the 1930s.  Champaign County documented 500 cases of tuberculosis and 75 deaths from tuberculosis in 1920 alone.[1] Continue reading “Tuberculosis Robs, Public Health Protects”

“The Scarlet Fever Germ is Neither Chivalrous nor Romantic”

This post is part three of the exhibit “Epidemic!  Disease on Campus, 1918-1938.”

From 1840 until 1883, scarlet fever became one of the most common infectious childhood diseases to cause death in the major metropolitan centers of Europe and the United States, with fatality rates that reached or exceeded 30% in some areas. Until the early 20th century, scarlet fever was a common condition among children. Though the disease did not reach the epidemic heights of the late 1800s at the University during Doctor Beard’s tenure, the Health Services Station dealt with yearly threats of a potential disaster. Continue reading ““The Scarlet Fever Germ is Neither Chivalrous nor Romantic””

Influenza Epidemic of 1918

This post is part two of the exhibit “Epidemic! Disease on Campus, 1918-1938.”

Despite being one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918 has been nearly forgotten.   This unusually deadly influenza virus killed 675,000 people in the United States, a greater number than U.S. troop deaths in World War I (116,516) and World War II (405, 399) combined.  Roughly 40 million people died worldwide from the early spring of 1918 through the late spring of 1919.[1] Continue reading “Influenza Epidemic of 1918”