Epidemics in Hawaiʻi

#77 in the Moʻolelo series

Doug Herman, in Smithsonian Magazine, summarizes the epidemics during the Kingdom period:

as the nascent Hawaiian Kingdom worked to forge itself into an independent nation, foreign ships brought epidemics in waves: cholera (1804), influenza (1820s), mumps (1839), measles and whooping cough (1848-9) and smallpox (1853). These led King Kamehameha V, in 1869, to establish a quarantine station on a small island off Honolulu. Leprosy arrived around that time and led the kingdom, under pressure from Western advisors, to quarantine those suspected of being infected (predominantly Native Hawaiians) on the island of Moloka‘i [at Kalaupapa]

Herman, Smithsonian Magazine, 2020
Kalaupapa Settlement, Molokaʻi

Peter Young describes the period:

From 1818 to 1825, Don Francisco de Paula Marin recorded numerous occurrences of colds and flu among the Hawaiians, noting that people had died. 1826 saw an epidemic of coughs, congested lungs, sore throat, bronchitis and influenza.

Young citing Van Dyke

Schmitt and Nordyke, in Hawaiian Journal of History chronicle the epidemics of 1848-1849 as being among the most fatal, carrying away as many as 10,000 in the islands. This was a period of multiple, simultaneous outbreaks of influenza, measles, whooping cough, mumps, “pleurisy and billious fever.”

Hawaiʻi was also hit by the global influenza epidemic of 1918-1920, with school and business closures not entirely different from those presently taking place. According to Schmitt and Nordyke (in a different article) there were nearly 800 deaths in 1919 and nearly double that in 1920.

Noting that this epidemic was during the climax of World War I, the description of business and school closures is eerily familiar:

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