He advised Americans to cancel social gatherings and wear masks in public.
He warned of a disease resurgence if restrictions were lifted too soon.
He was also born in the 19th century.
A century separates the two physicians, and they worked under different circumstances: Tuttle was a state official and Fauci is a national advisor on coronavirus. Tuttle communicated his health recommendations via telegram and Fauci appears weekly on TV. And the pandemics of their eras were two very different beasts.
But the two have shared similar advice for ending pandemics — social distancing, masks and quarantine among them. And it doesn’t hurt that the two bespectacled physicians look alike.
He raised the notion of asymptomatic transmission
In battling the 1918 influenza pandemic, Tuttle raised the notion of asymptomatic transmission, though he didn’t call it that.
He noted that among passengers on a steamship traveling from Nome, Alaska, to Seattle, Washington, 150 of them showed signs of influenza. This was despite no reported cases of influenza in Nome — proof that the vessel must have carried asymptomatic passengers.
Asymptomatic transmission is the reason health officials today changed their stance on masks.
He recommended strict rules
Like Fauci, Tuttle asked the public to make fairly drastic changes to weaken the virus’s spread — and that includes social distancing and wearing masks.
“All public gatherings except those absolutely essential to the maintenance of life and to the prosecution of essential war industries were prohibited,” Tuttle wrote.
His strategy for Washington state seemed to work, though: With early intervention and a nascent vaccine, Tuttle wrote that the death rate from influenza in the state was “as low as any state in the US, if not lower than any other state.”
He faced pushback
As with Fauci, not every arm of the government — or the public — agreed with Tuttle’s proposed restrictions.
In a telegram to the US Public Health Service, Tuttle asked how long a period of quarantine should last for patients with the virus.
“Service does not recommend quarantine against influenza,” the service responded.
In 1918, after about six weeks of social distancing (though it wasn’t called that then), Tuttle wrote that restrictions were lifted — and within two weeks, infection rates quickly grew.
He warned of a resurgence
Despite the progress the state and nation had made in quelling the pandemic, Tuttle warned of a resurgence later in the season. Though the 1918 influenza outbreak began in the fall and peaked in winter, he warned that it could peak again in the following winter after a relatively mild summer.
“Our fight with this disease is not finished,” he wrote. “In fact, we are simply in the midst of it. We must, therefore, be prepared to meet the situation.”
He turned out to be right — the pandemic stretched into spring 1919. By its end, at least 50 million people worldwide had died from it, including 675,000 Americans.
“I’m almost certain it will come back, because the virus is so transmissible and it’s globally spread,” Fauci said during an Economic Club of Washington webinar last week.
Fauci predicted the coronavirus will resurge in the US in the fall and winter, just as flu season kicks off. To prepare for it, Americans must be ready to resume stay-at-home orders at a moment’s notice.