The Term ‘Quarantine’ Comes From Medieval Efforts to Fight the Black Death

Nearly 700 years ago, overwhelmed doctors and health officials battling a devastating epidemic of bubonic plague in medieval Italy had no idea of ​​viruses or bacteria, but they understood enough about the black plague. to implement some of the world’s first anti-contagion measures.

From 1348, shortly after the arrival of the plague in cities like Venice and Milan, the municipal authorities implemented emergency public health measures which foreshadowed the best current practices of social distancing and surface disinfection .

“They knew you had to be very careful with the goods traded, as the disease could spread to objects and surfaces, and that you were doing your best to limit interpersonal contact,” says Jane Stevens Crawshaw, a lecturer in modern European history at the University of Oxford Brookes.

The first quarantine

The Adriatic port city of Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik) was the first to adopt legislation requiring mandatory quarantine of all commercial ships and caravans in order to screen for infections.

The ordinance, which miraculously survived in the Dubrovnik archives, states that on July 27, 1377, the Grand City Council passed a law “which states that those who come from plague-infested areas must not enter [Ragusa] or its neighborhood, unless they spend a month on the islet of Mrkan or in the town of Cavtat, for disinfection purposes. “

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