Montana and the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic:

  • 2014

Montana and the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic:

An Illustration of the Relationship between Economy and Biology
Author:
Janelle Olberding
Abstract:

Montana suffered one of the four highest mortality rates of all states during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. Between August 1918 and June 1919, approximately 5,000 Montanans, one percent of the state's population, died of influenza. This paper argues that Montana's economy served as the catalyst for the state's exceptionally high pandemic mortality rate. Mining and agricultural work drew the populations most susceptible to the virus to the state in the early twentieth century. These economic activities also dictated that many individuals lived and worked in sub-par conditions with little access to healthcare resources. The cultural differences and transient and unruly nature of mining communities made it difficult for officials to enforce laws and ordinances intended to protect public health. The experience in Butte and in Montana as a whole illustrates the multifaceted relationship between economics, demographics, culture, and communicable disease.