Bickett took lead against Spanish flu

“Gov. Thomas Bickett quickly realized the enormity of [the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918]. On Oct. 3 he released a 600-word statement to the press that noted the disease was transmitted through ‘spit swapping,’ which included ‘coughing or sneezing into the air instead of a handkerchief…  soiling the hands with spit … and using common drinking dippers.’

“Bickett seemed to be ahead of his own health department and the federal government, according to Laura Austin in her 2018 UNC Charlotte doctoral thesis, ‘Afraid to Breathe.’:

“ ‘Despite the fact that the day before, Oct. 2, The News and Observer reported that neither state nor national health authorities considered quarantine measures practicable, the governor was encouraging people to stay at home in hopes of decreasing the circulation of the disease.’

“Bickett then tried another tactic, reissuing the information through the North Carolina Council of Defense, created to support the [homefront]  effort during World War I — and administered within each county.

“That message got through, Austin noted.”

— From “Historic Outbreak: Spanish Flu on NC Coast” by Kip Tabb in Coastal Review (April 29, 2020)