The interior of a hospital tent with camp beds lining the side, by John Singer Sargent. The painter drew on his experience of spending a week in hospital alongside the war wounded after he contracted influenza near Peronne in France in September 1918 © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1611)

London lecture to examine lessons of 1918 flu pandemic

Posted on on 02 May 2015
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The influenza pandemic which spread across the world with devastating results in the final months of the Great War will be discussed at a lecture in London on May 13th 2015.

'Pandemics: Can we learn from history? is chaired by Professor John Oxford, a UK virologist who's led international research into the virus which killed at least 50 million people. 

The disease is thought to have originated in the sprawling British army transit camps at Etaples, Northern France, in the spring of 1918. 

It went to kill more people than the entire First World War in several outbreaks between 1918-20.

The NZ-UK Link Foundation, a charity fostering ties between Britain and New Zealand, is hosting the lecture on the lessons for future generations at the Imperial War Museum in London. 

The speaker is Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, New Zealand. 

Looking ahead to the centenary in 2018, the Foundation says: "Human history has been shaped, and continues to be shaped, by infectious diseases and pandemics. This presentation will draw on research about factors that affected pandemic influenza mortality in the NZ armed forces and in isolated Pacific Islands. 

"It will then review lessons from more modern epidemics, including polio, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola. 

"The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more people than the entire First World War. How will we commemorate this anniversary in three years’ time? 

"This lecture will make a plea for us to build on these lessons of history so we are better prepared for the inevitable epidemics and pandemics of the future."

Professor Oxford, Emeritus Professor of Virology at London University, and Professor Michael Baker will be joined on the panel by Dr John McCauley, Director of the World Health Organisation Influenza Centre, National Institute for Medical Research, London; and Dr Jennifer Summers, post-doctoral Research Fellow, King’s College London.

'Pandemics: Can we learn from history?' takes place at IWM London at 5.30pm on Wednesday May 13th 2015. Admission is free. To register, visit the NZ-UK Link Foundation website.

Images courtesy of the Imperial War Museum (© IWM Art.IWM ART 1611)

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News