11 October 2005
Remembering the 1918 flu pandemic
Talk of Asian Bird Flu has revived memories of New Zealand's worst disease outbreak, the lethal influenza pandemic of
1918. A new web feature on NZHistory.net.nz provides an overview of the affect of the pandemic on this country and
includes a series of sound recordings from people who lived through it.
"The 1918 Flu Pandemic was the deadliest disease outbreak in New Zealand history, killing over 8000 people in just four
months - almost half as many New Zealanders as had died in the four terrible years of the First World War," said Neill
Atkinson, historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
"Hearing the recollections of some of those who lived through the pandemic really brings home the frightening reality
behind these statistics."
The recordings featured on the website were made for a 1967 radio documentary and include some harrowing stories of
seeing and dealing with death. One man recalled his experience with his father.
"He took me in his arms and carried me to see my dead sister before she was carried to the grave. He took me for a last
visit to my mother for he thought that both of us would die. But we didn't. We gasped for breath, our chests and throats
rattled with the passage of the hard-won air. We sweated and we shivered, we fainted and revived. Death waited for us
but we survived."
See and hear it all at www.nzhistory.net.nz/Gallery/flu/