Safer at Home – Day Twenty-One

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April 22, 2020

It took 21 days but I finally looked into where we got the name quarantine.

Socially distancing contagious people has been around for a long time. There are records in the Bible of people with contagious infections forced to stay outside the city gates. People affected with leprosy, arguably the oldest of human infections, were kept segregated from the rest of the population, in colonies established on remote islands or on mountaintops.

The word itself was coined in the mid 14th century. The bubonic plague, aka The Black Plague, managed to kill one-third of the European population in the space of 3 years. During this time, a law was passed in the Venetian controlled port city of Ragusa (now in Croatia). Called trentino, which means thirty days, this law established a thirty day isolation period for any ship arriving from a plague afflicted area. No one was to board or disembark for those thirty days.

The law was quickly adopted by other cities and within the next hundred years, an additional ten days was added to the isolation and the practice went from trentino to quarantino, hence our English word quarantine.

The United States Congress, in 1878, passed the National Quarantine Act permitting the federal government to act during an outbreak of yellow fever. By 1921, the quarantine system was completely nationalized.

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