Central Illinois Genealogical Society Quarterly 43 (Winter 2007) features an article about Decatur's experiences in the 1918-1919 flu epidemic. A quarantine order was issued by Commissioner John F. Mattes on October 12, 1918, that closed "schools, theaters, billiard rooms, and dance halls." Church services were suspended, and parents were instructed to keep their children at home. A newspaper article noted that 1,000 of 6,600 children were absent because of illness prior to the quarantine.
A vacant house was commandeered, hurriedly cleaned, and pressed into service as an emergency hospital / morgue. There were usually at least 255 patients on hand, with more in the morgue awaiting burial. The emergency hospital depended heavily on volunteers, but volunteers became harder and harder to enlist as more people became sick or feared becoming sick due to close contact with flu victims.