The history of quarantines: why restrictions do not always stop the epidemic?

Not so long ago Russia has partially closed the border with China because of the epidemic of 2019 coronavirus-nCoV. Similar measures were adopted in other neighboring States of China. And in the United States each arrived from China sent to a two-week quarantine. “News.Science” I propose to recall the history of quarantines, stretching back thousands of years.

Surprisingly, the true nature of the infections have been cleared up only in the XIX century, with the discovery of microorganisms of the genius of Louis Pasteur. But for thousands of years before people realized that the healthy are infected by some diseases from the patients.

the Quarantine action mentioned in the old Testament. In some parts refers to the need to isolate lepers, that is patients with leprosy. In the Middle ages the Catholic Church throughout Europe organized a colony for leprosy patients.

the very word “quarantine” world culture owes to the epidemic Black death. The pandemic of plague began in Central Asia, and in 1347 had reached European shores. According to various estimates, around the world, she has claimed 75 to 200 million lives, including a third to half of Europe’s population.

In 1377 in the port of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik in Croatia) was introduced unusual measure. The ship arriving from an area where there were many cases of plague were not allowed to dock within 30 days. It was assumed that during this time, anyone who carries the disease, or die, or recover. Subsequently, the term was extended to 40 days. From the Italian word quaranta (“forty”) and the word “quarantine” (ital. quarantena, FR. quarantaine).

the nature of the infections began to clear, thanks to the genius of Louis Pasteur.Illustration Wikimedia Commons.

History has known cases when entire communities of people to voluntarily isolated themselves so as not to release to the outside world a dangerous disease. So grateful descendants kept the memory about the feat residents of the English village of IEM.

In 1665 in the village and the plague came. The source of infection was the parcel sent from London (probably, it had done its deadly journey, the plague flea). The epidemic had raged in the Misty Albion, but mostly on the South coast. IEM was one of the first centers in the center of the country.

the villagers could escape from the danger that was everywhere. Healthy would have avoided the infection, but along with them fled, and those who already bore in itself danger, and the disease would spread across the country. Instead, residents vowed not to leave the borders of Yama, while there remains at least one infected. For most of them, still healthy, it meant certain death.

Dedicated British did not go outside the village, even to remove the field. Local residents brought them food to the borders of the settlement. IMCI took her out, instead of leaving the coins in the holes, filled with vinegar (it was thought that this substance protects against infection).

the Martyrs of Ima fulfilled their duty, paying a terrible price for it. When after 14 months the plague had receded, were still alive, only one in five (according to other sources, each second) of them.

However, the history of quarantine is not always a story of heroism and selflessness. In the nineteenth century to the world, one after another, spreading cholera epidemic, and many countries have introduced quarantine measures for new arrivals. But sometimes their misuse in the economic or political purposes (as any such event hits hard isolated cities and whole countries).

By the way, today who are not in a hurry to recommend quarantine measures in the world. So, declaring the outbreak of coronavirus a global emergency in health organization recommended not to restrict travel to China. Who Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus (Tedros Ghebreyesus) condemned restrictive measures adopted by 194 countries, saying that they can be a “recipe for disaster” — the economic, politnical or social.

the fact that the quarantine deals a heavy blow to the economy of the country. In this regard, some States may be hiding outbreaks in order not to fall under the restrictive measures. Individuals also may not seek medical care, fearing that they were forbidden to travel. Such excesses can lead to sick time will not be assisted.

Gebreyesus expressed the desire that existed between the presence or absence of emergency “levels of anxiety”.

Mary Mallon in a hospital resents her first quarantine.Photo Wikimedia Commons.

By the way, mankind remembers the remarkable cases of violation of quarantine measures. In the early twentieth century in the United States lived the infamous Mary Mallon (Mary Mallon). Not knowing that is an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid, she worked as a cook for seven years changing the seven families. When doctors, after studying the trail of “typhoid Mary,” has begun to sound the alarm, the authorities managed to force Mallon to be tested. They showed that it is indeed in your gallbladder infection.

When the truth was discovered, she was subjected to quarantine detention in hospital on the island of North brother. However, from the treatment the woman refused, stating that it cannot pose a danger to others. Three years later, the woman was released, taking with her a commitment that she never and no one will cook.

But she changed her name and, after working in the lower grades, continued to work as a cook, and thus spread the infection. It is again placed in quarantine, now life. However, it has become a kind of star and gave numerous interviews (journalists were not allowed to take from her hands even a glass of water).

According to some estimates, Mary eventually killed up to 50 people (Chiwords brought her to recover from diseases not counted). Today, the phrase “typhoid Mary” called carriers of dangerous diseases that pose a danger to the public due to the failure to take appropriate precautions.

more recently, public attention was attracted by a lawyer from the United States, Andrew Speaker (Andrew Speaker). He was infected with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. Knowing that is a danger to others, he nevertheless went to Europe. Upon returning to the United States he was detained and isolated until, until danger of contamination has not been reduced to zero. But after that until the end of treatment he was obliged to report its location five times a week.

we Add that the quarantine is still an effective tool in the fight against spreading infection. And, it seems, humanity will have to resort to this measure. It is only among mammals and birds, according to experts, circulating around 1.6 million unknown to science viruses. At least some of them have the potential to mutate and “learn” to spread from animals to humans and then between humans.

Sometimes we get a nasty “gift” and more distant relatives. Thus, the 2019 coronavirus-nCoV can be passed on to humans from snakes.

Previously, the authors “Conduct.Science” wrote that even the ants “take sick leave” to protect the colony from the spread of the disease.

Text: To.Science