Influenza Epidemic of 1919

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If the sufferings of wartime were not enough, in 1919 Australia followed in the wake of a world-wide influenza epidemic. In NSW alone, approximately 6000 people died because of influenza. Again, the Faculty of Medicine played an important role in fighting the deadly virus. During the epidemic, medical students were used to assist local doctors in treating the sick and dying in both hospitals and homes. Local hospitals were full to capacity and emergency hospitals were set up around the city in places like the Showground. Students were called upon to assist qualified doctors attend to those who presented with the flu. The risk of contracting the infection whilst carrying out this work was high and students were heavily masked whilst attending patients. NSW Public Health Department report that in 1919, almost 40 per cent of Sydney's total population had influenza. In some areas of Sydney, the deaths from influenza accounted for 50 per cent of all deaths.[1]

Emergency measures were carried out on campus, such as the wearing of face masks in classrooms and the University was closed for a period of six weeks at one stage. To make up for this loss of study time, the June and September vacations were shortened and the end of year examinations held later than usual.