'A pestilence stalks abroad': familial and geographic clustering of deaths during the Tasmanian scarlet fever, measles and influenza epidemics of 1852–54

Rebecca Kippen, Australian National University

At the time the first colonists arrived in Tasmania in 1803, the island was almost certainly free of infectious disease. Eventually, however, all the ‘stock diseases’ were to make their appearance. In 1852–54, Tasmania suffered concurrent epidemics of scarlet fever, measles and influenza. In 1853, 493 of 1,992 total deaths were attributed to one of these diseases; mortality of children aged 1–4 and 10–14 tripled, while mortality of children aged 5–9 years increased five-fold. This paper considers age-sex patterns of cause-specific mortality in Tasmania in 1852–54, and how mortality in these years differed from that of non-epidemic years. The paper also investigates whether deaths were more likely to cluster within families or geographically during these epidemic years compared with non-epidemic years. This study is based on family reconstitutions derived from a complete dataset of births, deaths and marriages registered in Tasmania in the nineteenth century.

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Presented in Session 201: A historical demography of epidemics