Tuesday, September 24, 2013


From: pbs.org

The practice of quarantine—the separation of the diseased from the healthy—has been around a long time. As early as the writing of the Old Testament, for instance, rules existed for isolating lepers. It wasn't until the Black Death of the 14th century, however, that Venice established the first formal system of quarantine, requiring ships to lay at anchor for 40 days before landing. ("Quarantine" comes from the Latin for forty.)

The Venetian model held sway until the discovery in the late 1800s that germs cause disease, after which health officials began tailoring quarantines with individual microbes in mind. In the mid-20th century, the advent of antibiotics and routine vaccinations made large-scale quarantines a thing of the past, but today bioterrorism and newly emergent diseases like SARS threaten to resurrect the age-old custom, potentially on the scale of entire cities. In this time line, follow the evolution of quarantine, from Roman times to the present.

New York State's new Quarantine Act calls for a quarantine office run by a health officer who has the power to detain any ship entering the port of New York for as long as he deems necessary. The health officer can also order all cargo to be removed and a ship cleaned and fumigated.

In April the steamer Virginia arrives in New York harbor from Liverpool, its passengers riddled with cholera. Discovering that 35 steerage passengers and two crew have died during the voyage, the city's health officer orders a swift quarantine. This and other strict quarantines undertaken during the ensuing epidemic prove successful in limiting deaths to about 600, a modest number compared to previous outbreaks.

IMAGE: Quarantine Station
The 128th Reg't was stopped at Quarantine Station on the Mississippi River south of New Orleans, when on thier way to join Bank's Army in Louisiana in late 1862. Many men of the regiment took ill aboard the Steamer Arago on their journey south and were kept here in quarantine until they recovered. Many unfortunately did not survive.


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