Journal of Professional Nursing

Measles Mumps and Mud: Childhood Epidemics at the turn of the century

Pamela Wood, RGON, BA, Med Dip Tchg (Tert), Senior Lecurer, Department of Nursing  and Midwifery, Otago Polytechnic

Reference:  Wood, P. (1993). Measles Mumps and Mud: Childhood Epidemics at the turn of the century. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 8(3), 24-29.


Childhood epidemics were a commonly accepted part f life in the two decades around the turn of the century.  Official health and education records portray, however, not an apathetic acceptance of epidemics but a public concern with their prevention and control.  Education boards referred to outbreaks of measles, mumps, whooping-cough, scarlet fever and diphtheria in explaining poor attendance rates while school inspectors commented on the impact that epidemics had on schoolwork.  District health officers closed and disinfected schools to prevent the spread of infection, and outside of schools nurses became actively engaged in the public health campaign to counteract epidemics, particularly in the remote rural districts.  Both health and education records therefore portray the public concern and official actions in contending with childhood epidemics at the turn of the century in New Zealand.  

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