Home > The Bonds of Unity (1917-1925) > Whooping Cough and Influenza

Whooping Cough and Influenza



Between accidents and diseases, parents have always had something to worry about when raising children. The families of parishioners were no different. A parent’s worst nightmare has always been the death of a child.

In the years after the founding of the parish many young children died of diseases that we are now immunize against such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, pneumonia and whooping cough.

Whooping Cough

According to the parish record of interments, in late October and early November of 1919, at least five infants in the parish died of whooping cough— known medically as pertussis — a highly contagious respiratory tract infection.

In the first half of the 20th century, whooping cough was a leading cause of childhood illness and death in the United States. But after the introduction of a vaccine in the 1940s, the number of cases gradually declined, reaching a low in the 1980s.

Although whooping cough initially resembles an ordinary cold, it may eventually turn more serious, particularly in infants. In the more advanced stages, those who are infected have a hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”

Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19

During the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, people generally did not directly die from it but rather died from complications caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia. Most victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks, which predominantly affect children and the elderly.

Worldwide the influenza pandemic killed more people than World War I, at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people.  An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the flu virus rather than killed in battle.

In Wisconsin, the disease peaked in the fall of 1918. Although influenza remained pervasive throughout the state during the winter and spring, the number of cases did decline slightly during early 1919. By the summer, the disease had begun to disappear from the state.

Although there is no way to determine if any members of Ss. Anthony and Margaret directly died of the pandemic, four parishioners did die of pneumonia. Two in their mid twenties on May 5 and November 11, 1918; a 17-year-old on November 16, 1919.

Although the parish’s sacramental records between 1914-1917 have been lost, we do know that the first internment from the newly constructed church was on October 16, 1914: Joseph Maria, the infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Leon Jacques.

In the three year period of 1917-1919, twenty-one parishioners were buried from the church. Nine of them were infants/toddlers. The oldest parishioner who died during this period was 74 years old. The ages of the others were 11, 17, 24, 26, 27, 31, and 31.