Epidemics & pandemics

Where can I find information about epidemics and pandemics?

Entry last updated: 22/12/20


Epidemics are infectious diseases that spread quickly in a large area or country, causing widespread illness and sometimes death. When an epidemic is out of control and spreads to many countries or regions of the world, it is called a pandemic. Cholera, Ebola and COVID-19 are some examples of epidemics that spread across the world to become pandemics.

General websites

For the latest information about the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand, please visit Unite Against COVID-19, the official website from the Government of New Zealand.

The websites below will show you where to find information about different types of epidemics, their causes, and treatments.

Britannica School

Britannica School is part of EPIC, a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

  • Select the middle level and type a keyword such as 'epidemic' into the search box.
  • Explore the link epidemic (pathology) to find out about types of epidemics. Check out the excellent table on major historical epidemics.
  • Have a look at epidemiology (medicine) to find out about the search for the cause of a disease.
  • Remember to explore the images, videos and related articles to find out more about these topics.

Health and Wellness (Gale)

This EPIC database has trustworthy answers to health and medical questions.

  • Scroll down the page and select the topic Diseases and Conditions and explore different epidemics or pandemics such as AIDS, Coronavirus, Influenza and Plague.
  • Choose the Browse topics icon from the home page to look at Epidemiology and find out how scientists investigate health issues.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

World Health Organisation (WHO)

The World Health Organisation (WHO for short) is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.

  • Choose the tab at the top of the page called Health Topics and select All topics to explore the diseases covered by this site.
  • Look at Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to find advice on how to protect yourself. Check out the Q&A section.
  • Select Ebola virus disease to read about outbreaks. Get an overview, understand the symptoms and treatments and find news articles and pictures. Choose fact sheets to get information in a handy layout.
  • Pick Smallpox to research a disease which has been eradicated.
  • Read aboutVaccines to explore one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases.
  • Other tabs allow you to discover the work WHO does by Countries or by what Emergencies are happening in the world.
Tips: Some websites have .au, .nz, .uk or other codes in their url. This can tell you which country this website comes from. The code .int is used for international organisations. You can check the About us link on the website for more information.

New Zealand sites

These websites have information about the history of epidemics and pandemics in New Zealand. Also included is a current website that offers advice and information on how everyone can stay safe during an outbreak of COVID-19.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Scroll down the page to the section on Social Connections.
  • Select Health from the range of topics, then Epidemics.
  • Check out the history of epidemics in New Zealand, including typhoid, influenza and polio.
  • Remember to explore External links and sources to find other useful websites with information on this topic. One example is the history of The 1918 influenza pandemic in New Zealand.

Ministry of Health (MOH)

The Ministry of Health (MOH for short) is a government website concerned with improving, promoting and protecting the health of New Zealanders.

  • Choose the tab at the top of the page called Our work then select Diseases and conditions and explore the topics.
  • Check out COVID-19 to find out the current situation on this disease.
  • Select HIV and AIDS to get information on these illnesses.
  • Explore Immunisation to find out how this can protect people against harmful infections.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources.

  • Type the keywords 'epidemic' or 'pandemic' into the search box.
  • Use the tabs at the top of the results to limit them to images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg epidemic. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Unite against COVID-19

This website was put together in 2020 by the Ministry of Health in New Zealand to provide people with all the information they need on the COVID-19 pandemic, including updates, and who to contact if you are stressed or worried.

  • There are tabs at the top of the page that lead to official updates, Help & advice, and what the government is doing, such as actions taken daily.
  • Scroll down the page to read about concepts like self-isolation and understand ways we're uniting against COVID-19.
  • Near the bottom of the home page, is a link I'm stressed, who can I talk to? with contact details of a free service that can be used day or night to talk to someone if you have any concerns or are worried about the lockdown in New Zealand due to COVID-19.


There are lots of books written about epidemics — check your school library or public library for some titles.

Here are some we recommend:

SCIS no: 1970176
managed by
proudly supported by

Acceptable Use

Acceptable use means acting like a good citizen online. How you behave online should be the same as how you behave offline (in the real world). AnyQuestions is a free service, staffed by real people from libraries right around New Zealand. Please be respectful and polite to our librarians. We like helping people who show good manners :)

We may end a chat session if we think you are being inappropriate or misbehaving, this includes:

  • Using racist/sexist, offensive or obscene language.

    Please don’t use mean or cruel words when talking to or about someone else; whether they are a male or female, or of another race or skin colour. Obscene language means using words that would upset your grandparents!

  • Using the service to transmit messages that harass or threaten the operators.

    Please don’t be mean to our librarians or act like a bully.

  • Visiting an objectionable website while in session with an operator.

    An objectionable website means a website that you really wouldn’t want your grandparents looking over your shoulder at!

  • Deliberately time wasting in a way that denies service to other legitimate users.

    Time wasting means being silly and not working with our librarians. Time wasting means other students are not getting help, and that isn’t nice!

  • Any form of vandalism, including damaging computer systems or networks and knowingly introducing programs such as computer viruses and worms.

    You might be technically savvy and know about web viruses and worms and how they affect computers but please don’t spread these. It takes our attention away from helping you and other students.

  • AnyQuestions reserves the right to disconnect users at the operator’s discretion. AnyQuestions might also block access to the service for repeat offenders.

    If you act like a troll then we’ll end the chat. Remember everything digital or online can be traced and we can track it back to where you came from and/or your school. If you misbehave on AnyQuestions then we will be in touch with your school or we will block you from accessing AnyQuestions.