Remembering the curves

previous Victorian epidemics

Wooden box, glass front with lock of light brown hair held with engraved gold bell shaped clasp.
HT 52124 – Mourning Box - Lock of Hair, Eliza Wallen, 1854

Epidemics have been recorded in Victoria since the first years of European settlement. Smallpox, influenza, polio, scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough, HIV and now COVID-19 have all impacted the health, wellbeing and lives of Victorians.

Our approaches to overcoming previous epidemics and pandemics have paved the way for some of the research work and public health measures being implemented for the COVID-19 pandemic today.



Cholera Epidemics in Victoria

A bacterial disease caused by Vibrio cholerae, cholera is contracted through contaminated food and water, and is closely linked to lack of clean water and poor sanitation. However strong quarantine measures meant it never reached epidemic status in Victoria.


Round pale green base with four cloudy glass tubes on top, each with fine long brown hairs attached.
Typhoid Epidemics in Victoria

A bacterial disease caused by Salmonella typhi, typhoid is usually spread by contaminated drinking water and food. Outbreaks were common in Victoria from the first years of European settlement.

Whooping Cough

Round pale puce base with ten glass elliptical tubes on top attached with metal wire.
Whooping Cough Epidemics in Victoria

A bacterial respiratory infection that can cause severe coughing to the extent of vomiting. Whooping cough effects very young children severely and can cause death. It is effectively prevented by vaccination, and outbreaks in recent years are associated with low vaccination rates.

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