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Remembering the 1918 flu pandemic

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/

ENDS

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