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An ounce of prevention

As of Wednesday morning there were no reported cases of the novel coronavirus in Douglas County, but that didn’t mean there haven’t been any effects from the contagion.

Schools and businesses are closed, events were canceled and while the wheels of justice didn’t grind to a halt they slowed considerably as a result of the virus.

The last time the Silver State came close to this level of reaction to a disease was the Great Influenza of 1918.

Unlike an epidemic, a pandemic means that a disease has literally gone viral. Pandemics are more about geography than virulence. The two look pretty much alike if you’re in the middle of it.

In 1918, the first sign of trouble didn’t turn up until the last months of the First World War. People were getting sick, and according to The Record-Courier, which kept a running tally, about 20 died from the disease.

The advice 102 years ago, before the days of vaccinations, was the same as it is today.

“It is very important that every person who becomes sick with influenza should go home at once and go to bed,” Bert Selkirk wrote in the Oct. 18, 1918, edition. Selkirk took up three columns of the front page with the news about contagion that would end up claiming more than 20 million people, or 1 percent of the world’s population at a time when only 1,200 people were living in Douglas County

Selkirk reported new cases being reported daily, as rare nurses and doctors ended up getting sick. Schools were closed and the basement of the high school turned into an isolation ward.

No one alive today truly remembers what things were like in 1918-19. All of our knowledge of that time comes from written reports and scientific research.

We know the measures being taken seem draconian, but the goal is to build a firewall to slow the spread of the disease. We believe that’s better than having hundreds of our residents severely ill or dying, failed by a community that knew better.