The 11th of November 2008 commemorated the 90th anniversary of the global influenza pandemic or ‘Spanish Flu’ which coincided with the end of the first world war.
"Between October and December 1918 New Zealand lost almost half as many people to influenza as it had in the whole of the First World War. No event in our history has killed so many New Zealanders in such a short time”. Ministry of Culture and Heritage Acting Chief Historian, Neill Atkinson.
“The death toll reached 8600 out of a total population of just over one million. Maori suffered especially heavily with at least 2160 deaths. And this happened at the end of a war that had left more than 18,000 New Zealanders dead. Multiply these figures by four to get a sense of the impact today”, said Atkinson.
A new feature on NZHistory.net.nz which draws on research from Dr Geoffrey Rice of Canterbury University tells the story of how the flu came to New Zealand and, once here, why it caused such losses.