100 years since the world wide Influenza Pandemic of 1918

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great influenza pandemic of 1918. Some have called it the greatest pandemic in human history.

Between 50 and 100 million people are thought to have died, representing as much as 5 percent of the world’s population. Half a billion people or roughly one-third of the world’s population at the time were infected. India was the worst affected country with between 12-17 million deaths.


The National Memorial to Influenza victims in Waikumete cemetery, Auckland

In New Zealand about 9000 people died from the pandemic with 2700 deaths attributed to Influenza in the last two weeks of November 1918 alone. By way of comparison, around 18,000 New Zealanders died during the five years of World War One. Maori were particularly badly affected with whole communities decimated by the virus.



Ambulance at Wellington Town Hall during the pandemic, NZHistory

Especially remarkable was the 1918 flu’s predilection for taking the lives of otherwise healthy young adults, as opposed to children and the elderly, who usually suffer most. Over 60% of those who died were aged between 20 and 45 years of age.

With up to half of every nations population sick with the flu society virtually ground to a halt. So many were sick that government, public services and business closed, and all forms of public gathering were suspended.



Interesting facts about the pandemic:

The 1918 flu pandemic has been a regular subject of speculation over the last century. Historians and scientists have advanced numerous hypotheses regarding its origin, spread and consequences and there is still little consensus about all these aspects of the disaster. Here are some of the known facts:

  1. The pandemic did not originate in Spain

No one believes the so-called “Spanish flu” originated in Spain.

The pandemic likely acquired this nickname because of World War I, which was in full swing at the time. The major countries involved in the war were keen to avoid encouraging their enemies, so reports of the extent of the flu were suppressed in Germany, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

By contrast, neutral Spain had no need to keep the flu under wraps and reports of it were widely published. That created the false impression that Spain was the place of origin of the disease.



First mention of Spanish Flu in London newspaper

In fact, the geographic origin of the flu is debated to this day, though hypotheses have suggested East Asia, Europe and even Kansas. The most likely place of origin was in the massive military camps set up in Kansas, to train US servicemen for action in the First World War. The pandemic spread to Europe with those servicemen and then to the rest of the world.

  1. The pandemic was not a  ‘super-virus’

The 1918 flu spread rapidly, killing 25 million people in just three months from October to December of 1918. This led some to fear the end of mankind, and has long fueled the supposition that the strain of influenza was particularly lethal.

However, more recent studies suggests that the virus itself, though more lethal than other strains, was not fundamentally different from those that caused epidemics in other years.

Much of the high death rate can be attributed to overcrowding; in military camps and urban environments, as well as poor nutrition, health care provision and sanitation, which all suffered during wartime.

Very few people died directly from the Influenza. Instead, it’s now thought that many of the deaths were due to the development of bacterial pneumonia in lungs weakened by influenza.

  1. There were three waves to the pandemic

The influenza pandemic of 1918 occurred in three waves; early in 1918, from October to December 1918 and early in 1919. The initial wave of deaths from influenza in the first half of 1918 was relatively low. The rate of death was similar to every other year as the flu is an annual visitor to most parts of the world.

It was in the second wave, from October through December of that year, that the highest death rates were observed. The peak month for deaths varied by country, in the United States 195 000 people died in the month of October alone. In New Zealand the peak was in mid to late November with a significant drop after the 23rd November 1918.


Map showing possible progression of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

A third wave of influenza in the spring of 1919 was more lethal than the first but less virulent than the second. This third wave tended to impact places like Australia, Africa and the remote islands in the Pacific who had escaped the worst of the two preceding waves.

Scientists now believe that the marked increase in deaths in the second wave was caused by a genetic mutation of the parent virus cultured within and then transmitted by the millions of soldiers on both sides of the war in Europe. Having so many people in a confined space is a well-known vector for communicable disease.

  1. The majority of those who caught the influenza survived

The vast majority of those people who contracted the 1918 flu survived. National death rates among the infected generally did not exceed 20 percent.

However, death rates varied among different groups. Death rates were particularly high among indigenous communities in the U.S, Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. This is perhaps due to lower rates of exposure to past strains of influenza. In some cases, entire indigenous communities were wiped out.

Of course, even a 20 percent death rate vastly exceeds a typical flu outbreak, which kills less than one percent of those infected.

  1.  Medicines of the day had little impact on the disease

No specific anti-viral therapies were available during the 1918 flu. Various sprays, inhalations, potions and masks were used to stop transmission of the virus but they were ineffective. That’s still largely true today, where most medical care for the flu aims to support patients recovery, rather than cure them.

Even 10 years later there is still no guaranteed vaccine to protect you from the flu!


An influenza medicine depot in Christchurch for “poor” people. Taken by an unknown photographer 4 December 1918. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: 1/1-008542-G.

One hypothesis suggests that many flu deaths could actually be attributed to aspirin poisoning. Medical authorities at the time recommended large doses of aspirin of up to 30 grams per day. Today, about four grams would be considered the maximum safe daily dose. Large doses of aspirin can lead to many of the pandemic’s symptoms, including; fever, breathing difficulties, nausea, extreme headache and internal bleeding.

However, death rates seem to have been equally high in places in the world where aspirin was not so readily available, so the evidence is inconclusive.

6. The impact of the Influenza

Because the influenza affected younger people there were many more orphans and widowed parents than at any previous time. In New Zealand over 1300 families lost one, and 134 families lost both parents to the flu. This impacted on society for decades to come as the government, churches and individuals filled the gaps. Most families would have known someone who fell victim to the pandemic.

A positive outcome of the Influenza was better health care, disaster planning and urban renewal throughout the world. In New Zealand the Health Act of 1921 and various local ordinances directly resulted in changes to how the country looked at poverty. This led to some significant changes to housing and health care provision for societies most needy. This would never have happened without the 1918 Influenza.

More Information:

Rice G., & Bryder, L. (2005) Black November: the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand (2nd ed.). Christchurch, NZ.: Canterbury University Press. RC150.9.N5RIC 2005

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic on the NZHistory website

Jason Reeves compiles a list of all 1918 Influenza victims

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Library reminders to your phone

Want to know the minute the book you requested is ready for collection? Want to know when the books you have out are due to be returned? Then the library’s new text alert system is for you. The text alerts can help you save money by getting your books back on time, or renewing them before they are due for return.


There are three types of text alert:

  • A remider that your books are due soon (about three days before they are due).
  • Reminders that your books are overdue (about three and seven days after they are due).
  • An alert that your requested book is ready for collection (as soon as it is put on the hold shelf).

From next week, these messages will go automatically to the phone number we have for you. If you’d like to update this number, if you have any questions about this service, or if you don’t want to receive these text messages, please contact the library.

These notices, and other library reminders, will still be sent to your student email address as well, so make sure you check this as well.


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Armistice Day 2018: 100 years since the end of the First World War

” …the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month…”

November the 11th, 2018 will mark the 100th Anniversary of the ending of World War One. At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month the fighting along the Western Front halted and peace reigned after four bloody years of conflict. The Great War between the Allies and Central Powers was finally over.


William Barnes Wollen, Observation Post, winter, 1919: Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 493

While New Zealand and Australia remember those who have served on ANZAC Day, most of the other Great War combatants use the Armistice as their day of remembrance.


George Edmund Butler, Stretcher party, November 1918: Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 473

During the course of the Great War over 100 000 New Zealanders or 10% of the population served overseas and 18 000 did not return. Included in this number were over 40 past staff and students of the Christchurch Technical College, the forbear of Ara Institute of Canterbury.

Honours board

The Canterbury Technical College Roll of Honour 1914-1918 & 1939-1945

To my mind one of the most poignant wartime texts is the Ode of Remembrance. This is proudly displayed in every RSA club in New Zealand, and has been recited at every ANZAC Day parade since 1916:

The Ode to the Fallen:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them. We will remember them.”


The Ara Institute of Canterbury Memorial Gardens dedicated in 2018

2018 Commemorative Service to remember Armistice Day

The Christchurch Branch of the Returned Services Association (RSA), in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council will host a parade and commemorative service this Sunday, 11th November. Veterans will march down Cashel Mall to the Bridge of Remembrance where there will be a wreath laying ceremony.


The Bridge of Remembrance, Cashel Mall, Christchurch

All are welcome, please congregate at the bridge by 11 am.

We will remember them…

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Pop-up makerspace coming to the Library on the 31st October

Ara Library will be hosting FabLab Christchurch on Wednesday the 31st October for a pop-up makerspace event. We would like to invite all interested staff and students of Ara to come along and take part.


Staff from FabLab Christchurch will transport us into the fascinating world of Virtual Reality. We will also investigate the transformative power of 3D Printing and will have a number of printers in the Library for you to use. If you have any .stl files for a project you would like to try on the 3D printer please bring them with you.


The Makerbot Replicator 2 as used by FabLab Christchurch


The event will be running from 10 am to 1.30 pm on the ground floor of the Library, at the City Campus, Ara Institute of Canterbury. Please contact us in the Library for further information.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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2018 APSTE Conference

APSTE group photo

This guest blog is by Georgie Archibald, Kaitoko Ako Pasifika (Learning Advisor Pasifika) in the Learning Services team.

Fakaalofa lahi atu this Niuean Language Week!

Last week from the 10-12 October, Ara was proud to host the 2018 Association of Pasifika Staff in Tertiary Education (APSTE) Conference. The purpose of the fono was to bring together Pasifika staff from all parts of the tertiary education sector to share our experiences, ideas, skills and knowledge through the inclusive and transparent process of rich talanoa. It was fantastic to host 60 guests at the conference, which was centred on the theme “Ready for Change” – inspired by the recent changes in the tertiary sector at national and institutional levels, which have ripple effects for Pasifika learners, staff, and communities.

Some of the conference highlights included powerful keynote addresses from Riki Welsh (PYLAT) about Pasifika youth and mental health, Daniel Faitaua (TVNZ) who spoke on being Pasifika in a traditionally non-Pasifika work industry, and Sela Faletolu (No Limits) who presented on adapting to change culturally, personally and professionally. We also thoroughly enjoyed a variety of presentations and workshops facilitated by local talent from our Canterbury region. At the conference’s end, guests shared their appreciation for the meaningful connections, valuable knowledge and excellent food shared throughout the fono. We all have new ideas, initiatives and connections to take back to our tertiary institutions for our students and colleagues.

Thanks goes to Ako Aotearoa and Ara Institute of Canterbury for sponsoring this fantastic event.

E patu i te ‘are vānanga ki runga i te tūranga ngāueue kore – Build your future on solid foundations.

– Cooks Islands Māori proverb

A fia vave o’o lou va’a, alo na o ‘oe, ae e fia tuli mamao le taunu’uga, tātou ‘alo’alo fa’atasi – If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

Samoan proverb

Si’i pe kae hā – We are a small island, we are still great.

– Tongan proverb

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The invisible illness


Image: CC0 – Pixabay

This post by Rose Edgar, Advisor, Disability Services

With the recent death of news presenter Greg Boyed, it again highlights the need for mental illness to be out in the open. We have come a long way from years gone by, but it is still something that needs to be on our radar.

In 2017, the New Zealand Health Survey found that 1 in 6 adults will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness in their lifetime. However, we are still hesitant to talk to our friends about it.

Coming out of winter, we have seen a lot of colds and flu going around. We feel compassion for those who are sick. We reeadily empathise with someone who has a cold and  don’t question why they might stay at home to recover. Winter is also the time where mental illness is at its highest. Are we checking up on our friends who seem to be missing class, stopped hanging as much, are more distant?

You might think that someone is just stressed with course work or their job, but it might be something else. Start up a conversation, let them know you are there to listen. Even just knowing that you care can make a huge difference to someone. Have a read of these 15 things you should never say to someone with depression and what to say instead.

If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, please reach out. At Ara, you can talk to any one of the staff who will point you in the right direction. Disability Services can help if you need to chat or need someone to advocate on your behalf. The Health Centre has nurses available and can refer you for free counselling.  Student Central has advisors who can support you and help with your needs. Duncan Dunbar, the Student advocate is a registered counsellor and is happy to support in a range of situations from everyday life problems through to addiction and legal matters.

Other services:

free phone/text to connect with mental health professionals

298 Youth Health
03 943 9298/ 021 081 2991

0800 111 757 – 24 hour helpline
text: 4202

0800 543 354

Mental Health Foundation


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Daylight Savings to start on the 30th September 2018

Daylight saving starts when clocks go forward by 1 hour at 2am on 30 September 2018. Remember to turn your clocks forward before you head to bed on the 29th of September.

Interestingly, there are currently moves underway in the European Union to halt the use of daylight savings. New Zealand would then be one of the few countries around the world who still use Daylght Savings Time.


Map showing of use of Daylight Savings Time :Image from https://netwallcraft.com

Here is a short history of Daylight Savings in New Zealand:

1868 — New Zealand officially set a national standard time — called New Zealand Mean Time — at 11 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

1927 — New Zealand first observed daylight saving time. The dates and time difference were changed several times over the following years.

1941 — New Zealand summer time was extended by emergency regulations to cover the whole year.

1946 — New Zealand summer time (12 hours in advance of GMT) was adopted as New Zealand standard time. Daylight saving time was effectively discontinued at this point.

1974–5 — Daylight saving was trialled again in 1974, and introduced in 1975. Daylight saving time is 1 hour ahead of New Zealand standard time.

1985 — Public attitudes were surveyed and over the next few years the period of daylight saving time was extended twice.

2006-07 — Following public debate and a petition presented to Parliament the period of daylight saving was extended to its current dates. New Zealand observes daylight saving from the last Sunday in September to the first Sunday in April.


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