Black plague - the 1918 influenza pandemic

When victims of influenza died, their bodies turned black as if they had the plague.


I well remember my husband, who was custodian of the town hall at the time, coming home very depressed and telling me all about this awful flu epidemic that was spreading so fast. The patients had very high temperatures, and when they died the bodies turned black, just like the plague, and it was really serious. He felt that if he got it, that would be the end. So I said, well, it's no use frightening ourselves into it; we must take every precaution and hope for the best. I used to disinfect the drains well, and we gargled with a weak solution of Condy's fluid every day. Tom used to spray the car with formalin after taking patients to the hospital. It spread so fast that they had to put up a marquee to take their overflow of patients.


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

How to cite this page: 'Black plague - the 1918 influenza pandemic', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012

Community contributions

07 Nov 2008
No there weren't - see Response to the influenza pandemic for more Jamie
14 Oct 2008
were there vaccinations for this?

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