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Westmoreland County Community College to mark anniversary of 1918 flu pandemic

Mary Pickels
| Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, 4:57 p.m.
Motor corps of St. Louis chapter of the American Red Cross on duty during the 1918 pandemic.
influenzaarchive.org
Motor corps of St. Louis chapter of the American Red Cross on duty during the 1918 pandemic.
Letter carrier in New York City wears a mask for protection against influenza in this 1918 photo.
archives.gov
Letter carrier in New York City wears a mask for protection against influenza in this 1918 photo.

One hundred years ago, an influenza pandemic swept the world, with estimates of as many as 50 million deaths .

Westmoreland County Community College is partnering with Excela Health, the Westmoreland County Historical Society, the Westmoreland Library Network and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to design a program commemorating the 1918 global illness.

"The 1918 Influenza Pandemic Invades Westmoreland County" will include a library tour in September as well as a four-part speaker series at the college in October, focusing on topics related to the pandemic, the spread of diseases and current levels of preparedness in local communities.

More events will be scheduled for March and October 2018.

"The study of the 1918 pandemic gives us an idea of how rapidly a disease can arrive, spread and impact an area," says Thomas Soltis, assistant professor of sociology. "The more we can learn about the 1918 pandemic, the better we can prepare for current and future outbreaks of disease."

The program will summarize the arrival, spread and impact of the pandemic in Westmoreland County. Of the 231,000 residents of the county at that time, more than 41,000 were infected and approximately 1,300 people died, according to a WCCC release.

Soltis also is seeking personal stories about the impact of the pandemic on local families. Reach him at soltist@westmoreland.edu to share your family's story. He also will be doing presentations at libraries throughout the county from Sept. 6 to 28.

This fall's speaker series includes:

• "The Spanish Lady Visits Westmoreland County: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Greensburg, Youngwood and Surrounding Areas," Thomas Soltis, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 5, Founders Hall amphitheater, WCCC campus.

• "Epidemic Diseases," with Dr. David Wyszomierski, Excela Health, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 10, Founders Hall amphitheater.

• "100 Years Later: How We Have (and Haven't) Prepared for the Next Pandemic," with Andrew Pickett, director, Bureau of Public Health Preparedness, Pennsylvania Department of Health, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 17, Founders Hall amphitheater.

• "The Turbulent Decade: 1915-1925 (and Beyond)," with Eric Greisinger, professor, Salem International University, W.Va., 11 a.m. Oct. 24 in Founders Hall amphitheater and 6 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Science Hall amphitheater.

Admission to all events is free.

Details: 724-925-4239 or westmoreland.edu/1918pandemic

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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