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The reason for the name can be readily traced. Nations at war practised censorship, but Spain, a neutral country, did not. Thus was the myth born that the plague originated in Spain 9. The image of a woman to personify a disease or pandemic dates back to medieval and, perhaps, classical times When disease struck Russia, which had pulled out of the war, a Pravda journalist commented: Ispanka [the Spanish lady] is in town However, this woman, who washed and dried her feet, in public, by candlelight, at midnight, would seem to have been eccentric rather than malevolent I had a little bird.

Its name was Enza. I opened up the window and in-flu-enza. By mid-November , influenza had gripped New Zealand. Which ship carried the deadly flu to this country has never been proved conclusively. The Niagara often gets the blame. It was widely believed that the vessel introduced a new, septic and pneumonic form of the influenza virus to which the population had no immunity; that the use of quarantine regulations could have prevented this; and that, on the instruction of his political superiors, Public Health minister George Warren Russell allowed passengers to disembark In fact, the Niagara berthed well before the arrival of virulent influenza.

Neither Massey nor Ward sought preferential treatment. Of its complement, only a few succumbed. Influenza has an incubation period of about 48 hours, yet in Auckland it was a fortnight, and elsewhere a month, before the plague reached its peak. Bacteriologist Robert Mackgill argued that the plague was the result not of a new super-flu but of a mutation in the existing disease By November there were reports of outbreaks of flu in other parts of New Zealand. But the Department of Health still had not restricted travel around the country, and the infection kept spreading.

People came down with the symptoms of the flu very quickly, sometimes collapsing within a matter of hours, and even dying the same day. The only way to avoid catching the virus was by keeping out of contact with other people. There were no flu vaccinations available, and no antibiotics for those who fell ill. Medicine department at Wellington Town Hall during the influenza epidemic. Infected patients found it hard to breathe, and often there was not enough oxygen in their blood.

Because of this some of the victims turned a purple-black in colour after they died.

Inhalation chambers were set up so that people could breathe in fumes which were supposed to help clear their lungs. This method of prevention was not proved to be effective, and by bringing people together, it may have helped spread the infection. Between one third and one half of the population of New Zealand was infected with the flu. Military camps, where the soldiers were crammed together in their living quarters, had higher death rates than places where living conditions were less cramped.

Many doctors and nurses had been overseas with the military forces, and went they came back home several fell ill themselves. Medical supplies began to run low. Hospitals became full very quickly, and emergency hospitals were set up in schools and church halls, and even in tents in some places.

Soup kitchens were organised to feed those people unable to help themselves. He co-opted the Defence Department which established temporary hospitals and sent medical teams to badly-hit areas. Six days earlier he had declared influenza a notifiable infectious disease, meaning that district health authorities could use special powers to deal appropriately with persons, places, ships, animals or things In Auckland, officials tried to restrict the spread of disease by closing public venues and keeping people at home.

In Wellington, the attempt to maintain an appearance of normality meant that such places often remained open In Christchurch, schools and picture theatres were closed. However, no attempt was made to screen ferry passengers from the North Island who came to attend Show Week, the races and associated festivities.

Head, Samuel Heath, d :Negatives.

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Unique to Christchurch was the way that tramcars were parked and people instructed to pass through them, on the way being sprayed by the concoction. The medical profession remained divided as to whether the inhalation method was of value. Find out more about how Christchurch coped with the epidemic. The celebrations in Christchurch caused the epidemic to spread south. In the small towns of Canterbury, as in Christchurch, volunteers did sterling work.

At the height of the epidemic in November, for weeks, ordinary life was impossible. Shops, offices and factories shut down without enough staff to keep them going, and schools, hotels and theatres were closed by order of the government. Because shipping from port to port around New Zealand came to a halt, many towns suffered from a shortage of basic supplies, such as flour and coal. In some places it became impossible to hold proper funeral services for the victims of the influenza.

Many undertakers and grave diggers were ill, and the number of victims too great to deal with. Coffins were made by volunteers. In all, the official total of deaths from the influenza epidemic including New Zealand troops overseas was 8, from a population of 1,, With some advance warning, preparation and organisation, Christchurch came off better than Auckland and Wellington 4. Doctors and nurses were among those who lost their lives.


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At least 14 doctors died from the flu. Over 2, died a death rate of A royal commission, commonly known as the Epidemic Commission, met. Its report, which was made public on 18 June , acknowledged that the department was understaffed; nevertheless, it thought bureaucrats slow in reacting to the crisis.

None showed any evidence of effect. Some nonmedical interventions did succeed. Total isolation, cutting a community off from the outside world, did work if done early enough. Gunnison, Colorado, a town that was a rail center and was large enough to have a college, succeeded in isolating itself. So did Fairbanks, Alaska. American Samoa escaped without a single case, while a few miles away in Western Samoa, 22 percent of the entire population died.

Even if isolation only slowed the virus, it had some value. One of the more interesting epidemiologic findings in was that the later in the second wave someone got sick, the less likely he or she was to die, and the more mild the illness was likely to be. This was true in terms of how late in the second wave the virus struck a given area, and, more curiously, it was also true within an area. That is, cities struck later tended to suffer less, and individuals in a given city struck later also tended to suffer less. Thus west coast American cities, hit later, had lower death rates than east coast cities, and Australia, which was not hit by the second wave until , had the lowest death rate of any developed country.

Again, more curiously, someone who got sick 4 days into an outbreak in one place was more likely to develop a viral pneumonia that progressed to ARDS than someone who got sick 4 weeks into the outbreak in the same place.

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They were also more likely to develop a secondary bacterial pneumonia, and to die from it. The best data on this comes from the U. Of the Army's 20 largest cantonments, in the first five affected, roughly 20 percent of all soldiers with influenza developed pneumonia.

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Of those, In the last five camps affected—on average 3 weeks later—only 7. Only Inside each camp the same trend held true. Soldiers struck down early died at much higher rates than soldiers in the same camp struck down late.

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Similarly, the first cities struck—Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Louisville, New York, New Orleans, and smaller cities hit at the same time—all suffered grievously. But in those same places, the people struck by influenza later in the epidemic were not becoming as ill, and were not dying at the same rate, as those struck in the first 2 to 3 weeks. Cities struck later in the epidemic also usually had lower mortality rates.

One of the most careful epidemiologic studies of the epidemic was conducted in Connecticut. The same pattern held true throughout the country and the world. It was not a rigid predictor. The virus was never completely consistent.

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But places hit later tended to suffer less. One obvious hypothesis that might explain this phenomenon is that medical care improved as health care workers learned how to cope with the disease.