Seacliff mental hospital, circa 1910.
Institutions containing large numbers of people living in close quarters were particularly at risk during influenza epidemics – but the risk could be minimised through the enforcement of strict quarantine. Alert superintendents at Auckland and Christchurch mental hospitals imposed isolation and only two people died at each institution.
Meanwhile, Seacliff and Porirua mental hospitals suffered serious epidemics. There were 22 deaths at each institution and many more staff and patients fell ill. Jean Thompson, who was nursing at Seacliff at the time, recalled: 'Out of a staff of 80 we had only 18 nurses on duty at one point. Keys had to be given to patients that had disturbed and even dangerous case histories, yet they never let us down.'