Infectious Disease in Benton

Though there have not been many recent events, there have been several instances of infectious diseases that have afflicted residents of Benton County through the years. In 1901, for example, there was a smallpox outbreak in the small community of Duelm. In 1908, the schools closed due to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever. During what is commonly referred to as the “Spanish Flu” influenza pandemic that struck most of the world as World War I came to a close, it is estimated that more than 548,000 people lost their lives to the disease in the United States alone. Benton County was greatly affected. The schools were closed, and there were 175 cases reported in the Foley area alone in October of 1918. Another influenza outbreak occurred in Benton County in early 1919. In 1925, another flu epidemic struck, this time raging through the northern parts of the county.

Tuberculosis is another disease that has affected Benton County. The first antituberculosis program began in Benton County in 1911. In 1929, a County-Wide Free Chest Clinic with a tuberculosis expert was arranged to combat the problem. In 1942, all schoolchildren in Benton County were tested for this respiratory disease. Yet another infectious disease that has affected the county is polio. The Benton County Fair was cancelled in 1946 because of Polio concerns, and Foley closed its public swimming pool because of the disease.