IT HAS been more than century since yellow flags could be spotted flying outside the homes of Wagga residents who were infected by the pneumonic influenza epidemic of 1919.
The Spanish flu - as it is now more commonly known - has been recorded as one of the deadliest pandemics in human history with millions of deaths worldwide.
But Wagga appeared to have had escaped the full brunt of the virus compared to other towns, cities and countries with 450 cases of the flu officially reported.
The 32 people whose lives were lost, however was "still severe" said local historian Geoff Burch.
"Australia acted quickly in isolating people who were coming back from World War I, so that helped slow the spread," he said.
The distance from the likes of Sydney and Melbourne played in Wagga's favour with the virus taking much longer to reach the population of about 10,000 residents at the time.
"The impact was less severed due to a lot of reasons such as people spread out and it was easier to put in place precautions," Mr Burch said.
Mandatory masks, the closure of businesses, self-isolation and travel restrictions were some of the preventative measures enforced by the federal, state and local governments of more than a century ago.
Despite all this, Mr Burch said it did not stop the influenza invading Wagga on March 22, marking the start of the eight long months ahead.
However, the first case of the virus did not come from a resident of Wagga rather a 45-year-old farmer living about 35 kilometres out of town.
The Gap's William Nugent was admitted into the isolation ward of the Wagga District Hospital - now known as the Wagga Base Hospital - after returning from the state's capital.
"He had been to Sydney a few weeks earlier and obviously caught it there and brought it back," Mr Burch said.
"People who had been in contact with him would have been isolated in their own homes and they had to put a yellow flag at the front of their house so people knew it was an isolated premises."
Of the 450 cases recorded in the city, Mr Burch said 150 came from out of town like Tarcutta, Ganmain or less frequently Junee, which had a big set up for treatment.
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"When there was a serious outbreak ... all of sudden you would have a rush of people coming from out of town," he said.
It quickly became obvious that the city's hospital was not equipped to handle the number of cases coming through its doors and it needed help to alleviate the strain on the healthcare system.
To relieve the hospital, Mr Burch said the South Wagga Public School on Edward Street was turned into a quarantine centre for the less serious cases.
By the middle of May, the Spanish flu cases had dwindled and people started to believe the worse had passed, he said.
Once the quarantine facility was closed and turned back into a school it was never reopened again, according to Mr Burch.
What stood out in his research was the "natural resistance" by the community to abide by the rules laid out by the officials.
It is a similarity that he has noticed during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.
"They were selfish to a degree," he said.
"The quicker you responded the more effective you were going to be at slowing the spread.
"There was certainly a reluctance in the community to abide by what the officials were saying they should do .... which is being repeated again."
Back when the Spanish flu wrecked havoc on Wagga and Australia, Mr Burch said people refused to wear masks and ignored the time restrictions placed on each person entering a pub, as well as the number of people allowed to gather in one business.
"The councillors were often reported in the newspapers with their concerns that people were not abiding by the restrictions," he said.
"People just ignored the rules and when you see situations like on Bondi Beach this week, it's obviously being repeated again."
Mr Burch said there was "a lot of political pressure to relax restrictions" as soon as there was any sign that the influenza epidemic had started to ease.
This complacency, however proved to be "unwise" when there was a "huge spike" in cases by July through to September.
"If the number of cases reported each day started to decline, the general population was like let us get back to normal, let us open the pubs, let us go to the movies, lets stop wearing these masks," he said.
"The second wave was a much worse strand of the virus. There were more people affected in the second wave that came through the city."
Despite the reluctance to follow the rules, Mr Burch said there was surge in popularity for what he called "quack medicine".
During the outbreak, The Daily Advertiser published articles and advertisements discouraging the use of treatment that hadn't been proven to work.
"It is no time to try experiments, especially in medicine but to rely on remedies which have proved their worth and are known to be effective," stated one advertisement.
Another ad that was authorised by the NSW Alliance debunked the use of alcohol for the treatment of influenza.
"Those days it was expensive to go to the doctors for working class people so they tried to find different remedies to prevent or treat the illness," Mr Burch said.
The pandemic was right off the bat of World War I which gave people no time to "settle back into normal lives".
The war had a severe impact on Australian identity and people's mental wellbeing, so to follow it up with another tragedy was "horrific," he said.
"The war effort meant Australia didn't have a lot of things because it impacted production and there was a scarcity of so many products," Mr Burch said.
"I know when (the Spanish flu) first came out they didn't have enough vaccines ... and there was a month where they had to wait."
Everyday The Daily Advertiser reported on the the progress of the spread including how many cases, how many people were in the hospital, isolated in their homes and deaths.
"There would be a column covering the last 24 hours," Mr Burch said. "It was nothing like media outlets do nowadays though."
He said the change in technology and social media has allowed Wagga residents to receive a "flood of information" about the coronavirus unlike what the city had seen before.
"Social media and media outlets are overwhelmingly throwing this stuff out about COVID-19 - much more so than those days (during the Spanish flu pandemic)," he said.
The 32 people who died from the Spanish flu in Wagga left behind their parents, siblings or children.
"Some children lost one parent, but a couple of families lost both parents," Mr Burch said. "I often wonder about how those children got on. They were probably the most devastated by the situation in Wagga."