It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The 1918 Flu in New Zealand

This carved wooden Maori cenotaph was erected at Te Koura marae in memory of those who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. The cenotaph was designed and carved by Tene Waitere of Ngati Tarawhai. He also created a similar cenotaph at Te Ihingarangi marae, Waimiha. This photograph was taken in 1920 by Albert Percy Godber.

Serviceman returning from The Great War brought the flu to New Zealand with them. The population in 1918 was 1,150,000. One characteristic of the flu was that it came in waves. The first wave served to immunize communities to some extent. Many people were lulled into believing it was not the same flu as the one that had killed so many elsewhere. But it was the second wave of the flu, catching previously unaffected communities that caused the majority of the 8,600 deaths in New Zealand.
Maori were seven times more likely to die from the flu.

Maori suffered heavily: their overall rate of death was 42.3 per thousand people, seven times that of Europeans. In one community, Mangatawhiri in the Waikato, about 50 out of 200 local Maori died. Whina Cooper recalled similar suffering at Panguru, Hokianga:
Everyone was sick, no one to help, they were dying one after the other. My father was very, very sick then. He was the first to die. I couldn't do anything for him. I remember we put him in a coffin, like a box. There were many others, you could see them on the roads, on the sledges, the ones that are able to drag them away, dragged them away to the cemetery. No time for tangis. (writer's note: official statistics identify only 9 deaths in the Hokianga.)

But there was an exception. Mortality amongst Maori on the East Coast of the North Island was, according to historian Geoffrey Rice, ‘much less than expected in comparison with other North Island districts'. This may have been because they had received partial immunity from the first wave which was reportedly widespread in the district during August and September.

To date, nobody has died from the flu outside of Mexico. However health officials there cannot say whether the deaths there, which are now more than 100 people, are because what we are seeing is a second wave asserting itself.

Certainly, this H1N1 virus sweeping through Mexico bears striking similarities to the 1918 flu. Both have origins in swine and both are claiming the lives of healthy people between the ages of 19 - 35. What makes this virus more alarming than the 1918 variety is the hybrid nature of it: This virus contains elements of Avian Flu from two different continents, elements of different swine virus' from two different continents, along with a human influenza virus.

The last pandemic fear was during the SARS scare 3 years ago. That virus proved to be a false flag because it did not make the transition from, bird to human transmission, to human to human transmission. This new virus, almost certainly a virus that was manufactured in a laboratory, has combined the most dangerous elements of both the swine and avian varieties. Because of the exotic nature of this strain, it is highly unlikely that tamiflu or any other vaccine will be effective. A new vaccine - specific to this virus, is estimated to take months to develop; most of those who died in New Zealand, did so in the two months following the first outbreak wave.

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