Influenza pandemic 1918

Where can I find information about the flu (influenza) pandemic in 1918?

Image: 1918 flu outbreak by Library of Congress on Wikimedia Commons.

Entry last updated: 13/01/21


Influenza, most commonly called 'the flu' is a disease that is caused by a virus, which affects the upper and lower respiratory tract.

In 1918 an influenza pandemic killed 30 to 40 million people worldwide, including more that 8600 New Zealanders. Even though the first cases were diagnosed in the United States in March 1918, it was Spain that was the first to report flu deaths in its newspapers and soon journalists referred to the pandemic as 'Spanish Flu'.

General websites

Here are some databases and websites that have information about the origin, spread and death toll of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Britannica School Secondary

Britannica School Secondary is part of EPIC, which is 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.

  • Use search words 'Spanish Flu' or '1918 Influenza Pandemic' to get a range of results.
  • Explore influenza pandemic of 1918-19 for an introduction to this topic.

World History (Gale In Context)

Another EPIC resource, this site has lots of information about events and people in world history.

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.
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, e.g [Spanish Flu]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

This is the official website of the History Channel. It includes a range of entries on this topic.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
Tips: Some websites have advertisements (or ads) which ask us to buy something or tell us to ‘click here’. It’s best to ignore these ads and focus on the information we’re looking for.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

CDC is an American agency working to keep the United States safe. It covers information about healthcare and about historic health events.

  • Use keywords like 'Spanish Flu 1918' to find the article 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus)
  • The subheadings on the left side of the page will lead you to the history of the pandemic, an image gallery, three waves of the pandemicanda pandemic timeline.
Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .edu in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.

New Zealand sites

Check out these websites for information about how the 1918 Influenza Pandemic affected people here in New Zealand.

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.

  • Under Sections select Social connections.
  • Next choose Health and then Epidemics.
  • From the Contents find the link to The Influenza Era, 1890s to 1920s to find out about the impact of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand.
  • We recommend checking out the the images on the right side of the page for even more information.


NZHistory is another great website from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Go to the page on Culture and Society and look under Disasters to find a link to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
  • Use the list of Contents and links to Related maps and Images in the right hand column to expand your understanding on this topic.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have .govt , meaning they are from government. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries has gathered together information and resources about lots of important events in the history of New Zealand and Canterbury.

  • Use the drop-down search box to search the website. Use search terms like 'influenza'.
  • 1918 Influenza Pandemic has general information about how the flu came to New Zealand.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


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.

  • Use your search terms to find items on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
  • Use the tabs at the top of the results to limit them to images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.

Radio New Zealand (RNZ)

Radio New Zealand is a trusted source of broadcasts, podcasts and series on news and current affairs. It also has some interesting programmes on New Zealand history.

  • Select the tab Podcasts & Series.
  • Go to The Aotearoa History Show.
  • Watch or listen to The First World War.
  • The information is towards the end of the recording.


There are different books you can look out for to learn more about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Here are some to get you started:

SCIS no: 1920550

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