Humanity is resilient. As global pandemics like the bubonic plague and the 1918 pandemic wreaked havoc on populations through the centuries, societies have perfected critical survival strategies. Here are five ways people have adjusted to life amid epidemics.
The first quarantine was enacted in the port city of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik) on July 27, 1377, during the bubonic plague, or black plague. It stated: “Those who come from regions infested with plague should not enter [Ragusa] or their neighborhood unless they spend a month on the islet of Mrkan or in the town of Cavtat, for disinfection purposes. Doctors of the time observed that the spread of the Black Death could be slowed by isolating individuals.
Quarantine played an important role in how 20th-century American cities responded to the outbreak of the 1918 influenza pandemic, or Spanish flu, following the return of soldiers from World War I. In San Francisco, naval arrivals were quarantined before entering the city. In San Francisco and St. Louis, social gatherings have been banned and theaters and schools have been closed. Philadelphia has become a test case in this do not To do when, 72 hours after staging the ill-fated Liberty Loan parade in September, the city’s 31 hospitals were at full capacity following the mass-market event.
READ MORE: Social distancing and quarantine were used to fight the Black Death
2. Collecting socially distant food and drink
COVID-19 was not the first pandemic to strike Italy. During the Italian plague (1629-1631), the wealthy citizens of Tuscany devised an ingenious way to sell the contents of their wine cellars without entering the streets presumed to be infected: shop windows, or bunch del vino.
These narrow windows were carved into tall houses to allow wine vendors to pass their wares to waiting customers, much like the take-out cocktail windows that popped up in cities like New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. 17th-century wine sellers even used vinegar as a disinfectant when they accepted payment. There are over 150 wine display cases in the city of Florence, and 400 years after the plague, they were relaunched amid COVID-19 to serve customers everything from wine to coffee to ice cream.
3. Wearing a mask
Doctors treating patients during the Black Death wore plague masks with long, bird-like beaks. They had the right idea – the long beaks created social distance between patient and doctor and at least partially covered their mouths and noses – but the wrong science. Doctors of the time believed in the miasma theory, according to which diseases were spread by bad smells in the air. The spouts were often filled with strongly scented herbs believed to ward off disease.
During the 1918 influenza pandemic, masks became the preferred way to stop the spread of infection to the public. Masks became mandatory in San Francisco in September 1918, and those who failed to observe them were sentenced to fines, jail time, and the threat of having their names printed in the newspapers as “lazy. of mask ”.
But the newspapers weren’t just to shame; they also printed instructions on how to make masks at home. People have even gotten creative with masks, with the Seattle Daily Times publishing an article titled “Influenza Veils Set New Fashion” in October 1918.
READ MORE: ‘Mask Slackers’: 1918 campaigns to shame people by following new rules
READ MORE: When mask-wearing rules in 1918 faced resistance
4. Wash hands and surfaces
Washing hands to reduce the spread of disease is now an accepted part of hygiene, but frequent hand washing was a bit of a novelty at the turn of the 20th century. To encourage this practice, “powder rooms”, or downstairs bathrooms, were first installed to protect families from germs brought in by customers and ubiquitous delivery people who dropped off goods like the charcoal, milk and ice.
Previously, these visitors would have traveled through the house to use the bathroom, hunting down outside germs with them. (Typhoid Mary infamously spread the disease for which she gets her nickname by not washing her hands properly before handling food.)
Germ theory was a relatively new concept brought to light in the mid-1800s by Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and Robert Koch who argued that disease was caused by microorganisms invisible to the naked eye. Having a sink downstairs makes it easier to wash your hands when you get home.
Speaking of health and design, there’s a reason hospitals, subways, and bathrooms in the 1920s were often tiled in pristine white: White tiles are easy to clean and remove any grime or grime. very visible.
READ MORE: It took a surprisingly long time for doctors to understand the benefits of hand washing
5. Fresh air and adaptive school
While the question of whether or not to go back to school in person is a complex one in a pandemic, the 2019-2020 coronavirus pandemic was not the first time universities and schools were forced to go. tackle the question.
In 1665, a young Isaac Newton was discharged from Cambridge University to his family’s farm following an outbreak of bubonic plague. It was on this farm that he would have witnessed the apple fall which led to his law of universal gravitation.
While fresh air doesn’t always lead to new ideas, it was used to help contain the tuberculosis epidemic in the early 1900s that claimed the lives of 450 Americans a day, many of them children. Germany pioneered the concept of outdoor schools, and by 1918 more than 130 American cities had them. The move to fresh air has also prompted city planners to create more green spaces to promote public health.
During the second wave of the Spanish flu epidemic in the fall of 1918, public schools in Chicago and New York City remained open. At the time, the New York health commissioner told the New York Times: “[Children] leave their often unsanitary homes for large, clean and airy school buildings, where a system of inspection and examination is still in place.
READ MORE: Why some municipal schools remained open during the 1918 pandemic
READ MORE: When American students attended school outside