In the modern age, humans value their freedom of movement, which makes the threat of quarantine seem drastic, but it remains an important part of medical practice. Although doctors rarely recommend quarantine in modern medicine because of the effectiveness of disinfection and the cleanliness of medical buildings, it still happens to prevent local or global outbreaks. From its ancient history, physicians have changed the role of quarantine in medical practice.
In ancient civilizations, physicians understood the concept of quarantine and mandated it for the ill. In the most common form of quarantine, lepers could not participate in everyday society and lived separate from the rest of a town or city’s inhabitants. According to the Old Testament, ancient Israelites had to quarantine sick people to stop the spread of disease because they knew nothing about germs and viruses.
During the Middle Ages through the 18th and 19th centuries, quarantine became a common practice with regard to the sick and travelers. Between 1348 and 1359, the Black Death of Bubonic Plague ravaged Europe and the world. The disease killed thirty percent of Europe’s population and took many lives in Asia, as well. In reaction to the Black Death, the leaders of Dubrovnik, Croatia, decreed that all travelers by land and sea must wait thirty days before entering the city. Eventually, they changed the rule to forty days, which they called a quaranta giorni. They could only enter the city if they did not show any signs of the Black Death. Throughout the Middle Ages, physicians recommended quarantine. In 1490, Europeans quarantined people with syphilis. It became common for cities to have a board of health, which would issue quarantines and protect the people. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many countries established quarantines to smallpox, including major cities like New York. The American government issued quarantine orders to stop the spread of cholera, which arrived in the United States with the flood of European immigrants. Although quarantines sometimes cause controversy, physicians still recommend quarantine for serious situations, which they have done in the recent past.
Thanks to modern medicine, physicians rarely recommend quarantine, but it a vital option in efforts to stop the spread of dangerous, highly contagious diseases. According to the Executive Order of the President, the President of the United States has the power to enact quarantines within the country to combat series diseases, such as: cholera, diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, yellow fever, Ebola, and other significant diseases. Abroad, governments and physicians impose to stop the spread of similar diseases and these efforts prove most successful when they have the backing of a powerful government. In 2004, the worldwide scare of Severe Scute Respiratory Syndrome, specifically in Asia, forced the American government to consider a quarantine if the virus entered the country, which was never required. Due to quarantine efforts, the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak spread in only a handful of cases to Europe and North America. Amid the outbreak, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie quarantined nurse Kaci Hickox, who came back to the United States after working in Sierra Leone, testing positive for Elboa. After a few days in quarantine, she showed no symptoms, and the government released her. As you can see, in some cases quarantine can be a short yet effective solution.
On a smaller scale, individuals face quarantine for a variety of reason. Often, children that undergo surgery face severely weakened immune systems, and they might experience quarantine until their immune systems can fight back. In Berkeley, California, the government issued a quarantine order for un-vaccinated children. A measles outbreak hit local schools, which put these children at risk. With 91 cases of measles in California, Berkeley city officials mandated a 21-day quarantine for all unvaccinated children that attended school with a measles patient. Similarly, daycare children in Fremont, Nebraska, must submit to a 21-day quarantine because of confirmed cases of measles.
For millennia, physicians and leaders have recognized the need for quarantine. It helped stop the spread of the Black Death, and it remains useful to combat Ebola and measles. Luckily, most people do not have to endure a quarantine thanks to advances in medicine and the cleanliness practices of hospitals and other health centers, but it remains one of the tools physicians can count on to stop the spread of deadly disease.
If you have other concerns about your heath or need doctor’s orders, our team of physicians at www.askthedoctor.com is here to help find you a solution. We wish you well and hope to be of any assistance, any time!