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More than 40 people died here during 1918 flu epidemic
The worldwide influenza epidemic--described as the “greatest medical holocaust in history”--reached the Downingtown area in early October 1918, according to articles published that month in the Downingtown Archive.
The borough’s schools were closed for several weeks, after over 300 students and six teachers came down with the disease. Churches, fire stations, and lodge rooms also were closed by the Downingtown Board of Health.
By mid-October 1918, the epidemic had subsided, according to the Board of Health, which reported that more than 1,500 area residents had caught the disease and over 40 of them had died from it.
One reason for the rapid decline of the lethality of the disease was because doctors got better at preventing pneumonia that developed after victims had contracted the flu virus.
Surprisingly, many of the dead were healthy adults in their 20s and 30s, whose bodies’ immune systems were ravaged by the virus. About 28 percent of the U.S. population contracted the disease, and more than 500,000 Americans died from it.