At the time of writing, more than a third of the world’s population is currently in quarantine or facing some type of lockdown or restriction. It would therefore not be surprising to see the lasting effects of this COVID-19 pandemic.
You can expect new homes to contain quarantine equipment (just like Cold War-inspired bomb shelters), tv shows to add episodes of coronavirus, and more people to get rid of their underwear after discovering, while working at home, that fewer diapers are more comfortable.
In the past, there have been at least ten such moments, cultural, scientific and political.
Featured image credit: sewerhistory.org
10 The Origin Of The Word ‘Quarantine’
The English word “quarantine” was originally used to describe a period during which a potentially disease-carrying vessel was kept in isolation. The word was first used in the 17th century, and is derived from the Italian expression Quaranta giorni, which means “40 days.”
The epidemic of bubonic plague that tore the European continent has resulted in one of the largest loss of life in history. In the mid-1300s, the plague spread to iconic European cities, including Venice.
In 1377, the authorities of the Republic of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) passed a law on Trentino, which required ships arriving from plague-affected areas to remain isolated for 30 days before they could disembark. Finally, the neighboring cities passed this law. For several decades, cities increased the isolation period to 40 days, and Trentino was turned into quarantine. No one knows exactly why.
The word “forty” has since taken on a broader meaning. It now refers to various measures, from the isolation of groups of people considered infectious to health certificates issued to ships, through sanitary cords and disinfection.
9 The Two Quarantine Flags
Any two-way government that respects itself knows that epidemics affect its economy on many fronts, including agriculture, health, transport and foreign trade. This is why humans have been responding for centuries to the threat of epidemic-related morbidity and mortality through coordinated disease control strategies. The quarantine flag is one of these methods.
The first recorded use of the quarantine flag dates back to the 18th century. During this period, signals were used to show that no infectious diseases were on board ships arriving at sea.
The current quarantine flag is the black-yellow international flag, LIMA (also called Yellow Jack). Any berthing vessel subject to quarantine is expected to fly this flag. However, if the vessel is free of any known forty-year-old disease, it must indicate a request for “free practice” – the licence granted to enter a port – by raising a plain yellow flag.
8 The Bible Enumerates Guidelines For Quarantine
The Bible already refers to the quarantine. The book of Leviticus, probably written in the 6th century BC, describes a procedure for preventing an epidemic as part of the mosaic dispensation. He ordered that infected people be quarantined for a period of time, until the priests declared them healthy.
Leviticus 13:4-5 reads as follows
If the shiny spot on the skin is white but appears to be only on the surface and the hair has not turned white, the priest will quarantine the person for seven days. On the seventh day, the priest will examine it again; if, according to his judgment, the wound is the same and has not spread, the priest will keep it in quarantine for another seven days.
These laws are generally referred to as “jurisprudence.” They are representative of the different types of real cases that people may have encountered at the time. They specifically address issues related to the handling of infected bodily secretions, contaminated clothing, sick homes, and epidemics.
7- The Apollo 11 Astronauts Were Quarantined To Prevent ‘Moon Germs’ From Invading The Earth
NASA has made extraordinary efforts to isolate the three astronauts who returned from the unforgettable Apollo 11 mission, a small step for man, a giant leap for the mind. Prior to this mission, expeditions involving close-in lunar navigation had determined that the Moon was not made of cheese or any other such nonsense.
Despite this, no one at the time was sure that the Moon was sterile. It was therefore necessary to prevent potential lunar germs from ravaging the Earth’s population.
After the Apollo 11 capsule crashed into the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, the astronauts were greeted by the naval crew of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The naval crew gave the astronauts biologically insulated clothing and transferred them to a lunar reception laboratory where they were isolated for three weeks.
You might think that was an exaggeration until you remembered the 1979 sci-fi film Alien. In this film, a crab-like “facehugger” attacked Gilbert Kane and impregnated him with an extraterrestrial embryo. Seemingly healthy, he resumed normal activities until the extraterrestrial baby bursts out of his chest at dinner and fatally wounds him.
Certainly, the chances of these men bringing back some pathogen were low. But if they did, it was unlikely that humans would be immune to him. The risk was simply too high. After the Apollo 14 mission, this procedure was abandoned because there was still no evidence of life on the Moon.
6 Quarantine Of People With Strange Variations Of A Disease
In the past, people with irregular variations of a disease have been asked to isolate themselves when there is no epidemic.
In 2007, for example, Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta lawyer, was diagnosed with a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. The CDC later asked him to isolate himself. At first, he ran away. However, he was later apprehended and quarantined at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. There, he was healed.
Irish-born cook Mary Mallon (aka “Typhoid Mary”) infected more than 50 people with typhoid fever, which caused at least three deaths. Considered highly infectious, she was forced to spend the rest of her life in isolation. After a total of more than 25 years of quarantine, she died alone. Today, the term “Mary typhoid” is an idiom denoting a transmitter of anything that is harmful or undesirable.
5 The Genius That Emerged Thanks To Social Distancing
With the bubonic plague ravaging London in 1665, the instructions for “social distancing” caused campuses across England to be emptied. This seemed unfair at the time to most people, but not to a certain student at Trinity College, Cambridge, named Isaac Newton. Freed from the university curriculum and his teachers, Newton plunged into discovery.
During his 18 months in isolation, Newton laid the groundwork for computation, studied optics, and determined that white light was made up of all components of the visible spectrum. The revolutionary law of universal gravity was also born at his home at Woolsthorpe Manor.
According to William Stukeley, Newton began to contemplate gravity when he noticed that apples were still falling directly to the ground. Newton eventually returned to college after the Great Plague, and he became a professor. His discoveries during his forties, however, served as the basis for some of the greatest scientific innovations.
4 Enter King Lear And Dr. Frankenstein
Sir Isaac Newton was just one of the many geniuses of antiquity who did incredible things while confined to his home. In addition to the scientific breakthroughs made during the forties, there have been artistic breakthroughs in the form of literature. The popular King Lear was written by William Shakespeare, the “Bard of Avon,” during the quarantine of 1606. He also wrote Macbeth during this period.
In 1816, during a cholera epidemic that affected most of Europe, 19-year-old Mary Shelley had the brilliant idea of writing the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein, while in detention. In doing so, she helped launch the concept of horror fiction. Frankenstein was published two years later.
3 Governments Have Fled Previous Outbreaks And Isolated Together
1793 is perhaps the most terrible year in the history of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The summer was hot and humid, and the streets were littered with the bodies of those who had succumbed to the American plague (yellow fever). It hit Philadelphia hard. Doctors did not know the origin of the disease and did not understand that it was transmitted by mosquitoes.
Just as the disease was beginning to spread, President Washington and the entire federal government made the decision to leave the city, which was then the temporary capital of the United States.
Similarly, King Charles II of England decided to leave London to escape the Great Plague in 1665. With his family and his entire court, the king left the city for Salisbury in July of that year. They moved to Oxford in September 1665, when cases of plague were discovered in Salisbury.
2 The Effectiveness Of Quarantines Has Been Debated
While quarantines have proven effective in stopping the spread of disease in populated areas, not everyone agrees. The ethics and effectiveness of this response remain debated topics.
When SARS coronavirus first appeared in Canada in 2003, the entire Toronto area was placed in near-quarantine. The following year, a study suggested that public health officials should have focused solely on contact finding rather than imposing quarantine.
During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, health workers returning to America were quarantined in some U.S. states. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC at the time, criticized states for their response to these health workers who were doing everything they could to fight Ebola in West Africa.
Sometimes civil rights activists protested that people were gathered, stripped naked and showered against their will, even if it was to decontaminate them to prevent the spread of a disease. But others responded by saying that local health authorities had the right to enforce the practice.
1 The Island Of Death
There are countless uninhabited islands on our beautiful blue planet. Some of them are unexplored, others are cordoned off to serve as sanctuaries for wildlife, and still others have a far more sinister reason to prevent people from entering. Enter the spooky Gruinard Island.
After requisitioning this small island from its inhabitants during World War II, British forces began testing the feasibility of using a deadly biological weapon called anthrax on Gruinard. Fearing the threat of an imminent Nazi chemical attack, Allied forces decided to deploy first, regardless of the consequences.
They used a strain of anthrax called Vollum 14578, which was very serious. The 80 sheep placed in the detonation zone for the tests died within days of exposure.
The war ended in 1945, and the weapon was never used. The original owner then requested the return of his island. However, it had become uninhabitable, and mass decontamination would have been very costly.
The Scottish island has been quarantined for 48 years. In 1990, four years after a decontamination procedure, the safety of Gruinard Island was finally announced by the removal of its warning signs.
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