Spanish Flu Patients Treated at Converted UT Infirmary
The height of the Spanish flu, a global pandemic, occurred in Knoxville in October 1918. The city’s health physician, Dr. W.R. Cochrane, said in a Knoxville-Sentinel story dated October 5, 1918 “people are urged to shun public gatherings and stay out of crowds whenever possible.” On October 9, the city board of health ordered schools, churches, theaters, and pool rooms to close for nearly four weeks. UT canceled classes until November. The local chapter of the Red Cross converted UT’s original Reese Hall to an infirmary equipped with cots and medical supplies. The Reese Hall infirmary housed 47 patients sick with the Spanish flu, the Knoxville Journal and Tribune reported on October 6, 1918. Many of the sick were soldiers on campus as part of a new government program called the Students’ Army Training Corps during World War I. The Red Cross asked people with training in hygiene and home care for the sick to report for volunteer service at the Reese Hall infirmary or another military infirmary at Chilhowee Park. It is estimated that about 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, became infected with the Spanish flu. While the number of deaths in Knoxville was 132, at least 50 million people were estimated to have died of the flu worldwide, with about 675,000 of those deaths in the U.S. In 1937, UT razed Reese Hall, and a new dormitory with the same name opened in 1966.