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Cures - the 1918 influenza pandemic

Audio file

All sorts of remedies were tried to cure victims of the pandemic. Many were of little use.


[Man speaking] And I had a mate standing – we were on the corner – and he fell down by the lamp-post, and he hadn't had anything to drink that day. So then he managed to get home, and he had the black plague all right, black spots all over him, and he was taking mulled beer, if you know what that is, heated beer. It's no good. Every morning I visited him, and now he says, 'I'm going Harry.' Course I couldn't say otherwise. And then he recuperated!

[Woman speaking] Some used gargles and that sort of thing, and there was this formalin place. And the old-fashioned remedy of wearing a camphor bag, that was very prominent. And people had them on their children and on themselves, and, um, I don't know whether it had the effect, but sometimes just the thought that you got something like that is a help to people's morale, isn't it?

[Man speaking] Most of them got over it, but if you bled at the nose – if they bled at the nose – they got over it. If they didn't, they went black, and that was a finish.

[Woman speaking] I was living with my sister, and she would have a fire set ready for me to light with sulfur sprinkled all over the wood. Before I mixed with the family, I went to this room, lit the fire and bent over it and inhaled some of the fumes and was also fumigated at the same time. We kept away from crowds and never took home books from libraries.


Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Reference: clip from The great plague, 1967 radio documentary by Jim Henderson, TCDR562

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Cures - the 1918 influenza pandemic, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated