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Tuesday, 6 June 2017


In the Old Testament Book of Leviticus God instructed a person with an infectious disease to wear torn clothes, let their hair go unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out "unclean, unclean." They had to live alone away from anyone else, the first ever example of quarantine. The unusual rituals were to prevent others coming near and catching any contagious diseases for fear of starting an epidemic.

When the Black Death gripped Europe in the mid-14th century, ships entering Italian harbors would be kept isolated and offshore for 40 days as a measure of disease prevention before passengers could go ashore. This was the same as the period of 40 days of segregation from patients with certain diseases used by the Jews based on the laws of Moses. The Italians had noticed how the Jews seem to be less prone to falling sick to plagues.

The quarantine ship Rhin, at large in Sheerness, England
Venice took the lead in measures to check the spread of plague, having appointed in 1348 three guardians of public health in the first years of the Black Death.

The word "quarantine" originates from the Venetian dialect form of the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning 'forty days'.

Throughout history, other diseases have lent themselves to the practice of quarantine. Those afflicted with leprosy were historically isolated from society, as were the attempts to check the invasion of syphilis in northern Europe in about 1490, the advent of yellow fever in Spain at the beginning of the 19th century, and the arrival of Asiatic cholera in 1831.

Isolating a village in Romania whose inhabitants believe that doctors poison those suspected of cholera.

In 1892 a cholera epidemic arrived in America having been transmitted by an infection carried aboard the Hamburg-American Line's Moravia. This outbreak forced a twenty-day quarantine of New York City.

Apollo 11 astronauts were quarantined on return to Earth to stave off moon germsBuzz Aldrin found a crack in the floor, rendering it moot. This process continued for Apollo 12 and 14 before the moon was proven to be barren of life.

In 1990, Gruinard Island in Scotland, the site of biological warfare testing by British scientists, was declared free of anthrax after 48 years of quarantine.

In September 1998 the United Kingdom announced that its quarantine regulations would be changing from April 2000, to allow animals from the European Union, and rabies - free islands, such as Australia and New Zealand, into the country without a period of quarantine. This applies only to microchipped animals with vaccination certificates.

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