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During The 1918 Spanish Flu, This Public Health Official Introduced Social Distancing And Got Fired Over It

Meet Dr Thomas Dyer Tuttle, Washington’s Health Commissioner during the Spanish Flu That Took Place In 1918. Apparently, people have been finding close similarities between the way he and his colleague from the 21st century, Dr Anthony Fauci, have been fighting pandemics. Let’s take a closer look at it.
In 1918, epidemiologist Dr Thomas Tuttle advised face masks and social distancing to slow the Spanish flu pandemic. Even though this strategy really did work, the doctor faced pushback and was later fired from his job.

These two have shared not only similar advice for ending pandemics, but looks as well!

Image credits: Montana Historical Society
Moreover, both Dr Tuttle and Dr Fauci fought global pandemics late in their health careers, both men attended Ivy League medical schools and both were commissioned officers in the United States Public Health Service.
Most importantly, both of these doctors have shared similar advice for ending pandemics: social distancing, masks and quarantine among them.

In 1915, Dr Tuttle accepted a new position as Washington’s Health Commissioner

Image credits: Washington State Historical Society, Gregg Courtwright Collection

A few years later, in July 1918, the Spanish flu reached the Washington state

In the beginning, 300 cases were reported but after that, the number started to slowly decline. It seemed as if the flu was retreating.
In September, the numbers started rising once again.

On October 5, 1918, Mayor Hanson took the advice from Dr Tuttle and closed the churches and other public places as well as introducing mandatory masks

After that, Dr Tuttle took it into his own hands to start spreading advice for fighting the pandemic by sending letters to various newspapers

Those letters suggested, that this flu could be prevented from becoming epidemic with “the earnest, conscientious and intelligent help of every citizen of the State.” Like Fauci, the doctor advised people to stay away from public gatherings and, to stay at home if any kind of symptoms become apparent and to wear masks in public places.
“All public gatherings except those absolutely essential to the maintenance of life and to the prosecution of essential war industries were prohibited,” Tuttle wrote.

His strategy for Washington’s state seemed to be working

With this early intervention, the death rate from the flu was slowly declining. The doctor wrote that the death rate from influenza in the state was “as low as any state in the US, if not lower than any other state.”
Image credits: Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic (NCP 1603), National Museum of Health and Medicine

Later, in the fall of 1918, the restrictions were lifted because a lot of citizens stopped following them

Image credits: Washington State Historical Society, Gregg Courtwright Collection
Besides, the US Public Health Service wasn’t recommending quarantine against influenza.

Within a few weeks, infection rates started rising again

Image credits: Harris & Ewing via Library of Congress

Dr Tuttle Began talking about the restrictions once again, this time promoting them more “aggressively”

Image credits: archives
While the numbers wear gradually rising, the doctor became more and more frustrated about the whole situation. But, basically, this time no one was listening to him. The doctor was described as belonging “to that old-fashioned school of citizens who believe laws and regulations were made to be enforced.”

Soon enough, Dr Tuttle was fired from his position as health commissioner in Washington

Nearly 80 years after Dr Tuttle’s death, his legacy in fighting health crisis lives on

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