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Time to reflect on 1918 influenza pandemic


One hundred years ago the influenza pandemic killed an estimated 9000 New Zealanders during this country’s largest public health crisis, says Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage chief historian Neill Atkinson.
“The majority of deaths occurred between October and December 1918, so as we come into this period a century later it’s important to reflect on and commemorate this major event in our history,” Neill Atkinson says.

“No other event has claimed so many New Zealand lives in such a short time. More than half as many New Zealanders died from influenza in three months as died while serving during the four years of the First World War.”

The commemoration has links to the First World War. It acknowledges the impact the flu pandemic had on Western Samoa, which resulted in the death of a quarter of Western Samoa’s population. A dance piece called ‘1918’ by Pacific performing arts group Le Moana will be showcased at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in early November to mark this tragic event.

“A number of events will be happening throughout the country to remember the pandemic and inform the public. These include performances, public talks, digital storybooks and guided walks to remember the lives of those lost.

“We are planning to have a plaque to commemorate the influenza pandemic installed at Pukeahu early next year.

“The commemoration is also a reminder that we remain at risk from influenza viruses, and need to be aware of the ways that risk can be minimised by seasonal flu vaccines, good hygiene practices like cough and sneeze etiquette, and being prepared to look after yourself and family,” Neill Atkinson says.

More information is available on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website regarding the commemoration and Ministry of Health website for health resources.

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