Native Villages In Alaska Take Extreme Measures To Keep Outsiders At Bay To Fight Pandemic

Natives of a tiny village in Alaska that was ravaged by the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 are now taking draconian measures in order to keep outsiders who may be potentially carrying the Coronavirus out of their small community. As USA Today reports:

Statewide quarantines to help control the coronavirus outbreak are raising heartbreaking memories for many Alaska Natives whose families were devastated by the two-year Spanish flu epidemic that wiped out half the population of some villages.

Taking a cue from drastic measures imposed during the 1918-1919 flu outbreak that spread via mail carrier and traders to remote villages, the 200-person village of Grayling on the Yukon River has banned all visitors and is mandating that anyone who leaves during the outbreak be quarantined for 30 days. Other villages are taking similar steps by banning all flights except for in the case of medical emergencies.

Even the famous Iditarod dog sled race — which in part commemorates the delivery of life-saving medical supplies to Nome during a 1925 diptheria outbreak — saw one of its normal sled dog musher checkpoints moved away from the coastal village of Shaktoolik after residents there grew concerned about an influx of outsiders who could be carrying coronavirus. Researchers say the Spanish flu killed all but six of Shaktoolik’s residents…

The moves by towns like Grayling and Shaktoolik are reminiscent of how the 600-person village of Shishmaref, near Nome, weathered the Spanish flu outbreak: Tribal leaders posted armed guards to ban anyone from entering, likely saving hundreds of lives. During that same outbreak, the nearby village of Wales didn’t implement similar restrictions and lost 170 residents, many of whom are buried in a mass grave marked by a wooden cross.

Alaska has recently ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving at state airports from outside the state.

 

 

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