31/12/1918 Pestilence in Samoa

The armistice has paused the fighting on the Western Front, but the struggle of mankind against the influenza pandemic continues. The second, extremely virulent strain of the epidemic is cutting a swathe across the world, bringing death and destruction to places that the war barely touched. One of these is German Samoa, which has been occupied by New Zealand since 1914. Unlike in nearby American Samoa, the New Zealanders failed to institute an effective quarantine, so when a ship landed in November, its infected passengers were able to spread the contagion throughout the colony.

The Samoans prove to be exceptionally vulnerable to the influenza. By now nearly 90% of them have been infected and a fifth of the islanders (7,542 people) have died. In American Samoa however the governor’s quarantine has meant that there have been no flu cases. As the shock of the last two months of horror begin to pass, the German Samoans begin to compare their situation with that of their neighbours, seeing their calamity as the product of New Zealand’s maladministration. Some begin to argue that if they cannot be entirely free of imperialist shackles they would be better off under US rule.

image sources:

New Zealand news paper report (New Zealand History: Reporting Samoa’s influenza pandemic)

Samoan obituaries (New Zealand History: Samoan influenza obituaries)

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