History of Quarantine in the United States Research Paper

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History Of Quarantine in the United States

In 1966, during the summer season the U.S.A. congress closed the debate and passed an approval of construction of a laboratory that would be used to confine the astronauts and their baggage that they shall have brought back from the moon. The congress approved the NASA's budget in 1966 and the laboratory was completed in 1967 September. This was a major step forward in the history of USA quarantine system. The center was named Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) located at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center; this project came up as a result of fear of back-contamination from the astronauts and the material they carried from the moon.

The process was quite simple, after they were recovered from the sea upon landing; the crews from the Apollo 11, 12 & 13 were taken direct from the helicopter to a waiting isolation vehicle at the aircraft carrier deck and flown straight to LRL for isolation.

This isolation of the astronauts was seen to be a preventive measure to any eventual danger or incidental contamination. It was not carried out upon confirmation of any assured back-contamination from the moon. As a matter of fact, in all the three Apollo cases of quarantine, no serious threats were detected and therefore the astronauts were released to continue with their daily lives. The moral behind the quarantine was and still is more important than the findings there after.

Definition

Therefore, quarantine is a voluntary or compelled isolation ordinarily to try control the spread of an infection or disease deemed lethal to the population. The disease may be considered contagious enough to the population and hence the need for isolation. The isolation periods range fro very short like in cases of anthrax attack where the victim can leave as soon as they get their contaminated clothes off and take a decontamination shower. Some may last longer than that as the laboratory results are awaited.

Quarantine has gone through such massive advancements until now there are quarantine ambulances, mobile dispensaries and hospitals and lockdowns.

Origin of the practice

The word quarantine originates from Italian word quarantena or quaranta dei or quaranta giorni which literally mean forty day period. This forty day period was historically observed when ships arrive on the dock of another country and there was suspicion that they came from an area with active plaque situation. These days were enough for the authority to confirm that none of those on the ships was infected by the plaque. Though even this method was not water tight since fleas, rat's cockroaches could still carry the plague into the new country where the quarantine was imposed, regardless of these the practice of quarantine continued.

The mass holding of people off the shore for forty days continued for quite a long time until the mid 20th Century when the antibiotics were discovered and instead of holding people off the dock, there were vaccinations offered to the visitors. This made mass quarantine a thing of the past.

Quarantine, as a matter of fact has been with the human race as early as during the Biblical times. In the Old Testament we find evidence of lepers being isolated from the rest in the society. The laws of the unclean in the society during the biblical times ware to protect the clean people from the lepers. The lepers were to be put together outside the camp and their clothes that remained torn and burnt.

This was the cruelest form of quarantine since lepers were considered cursed by God and unclean. This practice carried on to the New Testament period and there after.

History of quarantine in USA

Ideally, the quarantine law in America began during the colonial times in 1663 when there was smallpox outbreak, when New York established a law entrenching isolation of the smallpox infected persons.

By 1700s all the major cities and towns along the eastern coast of the U.S.A. had passed quarantine laws though the laws were only enforced when, the epidemic turned out to be very lethal to the population. For instance, in 1701 a Massachusetts law stipulates that all those infected by a plague, smallpox and any other type of contagious or transmittable diseases must then be isolated in spare separate rooms.

In 1738 New York faced its first biggest test in terms of quarantine application when it was hit by a threatening smallpox and yellow fever infection. The city council then decided to build a quarantine station on Bedloe's Island. This became the holding station for arriving ship crews suspected to be contagious. Philadelphia was not spared either in 1793 when it was hit by a yellow fever attack of the same magnitude, if not higher, as the New York one and consequently in 1799 they built an expansive station for isolation of the contagious patients. This was called Philadelphia Lazaretto quarantine hospital right in Tinicum Township, of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. By this time Philadelphia was still the capital city of the U.S.A.

The hospital occupied ten acres strip of land along Delaware River and the structure still stands to date. This was also the year that saw the colonial legislature pass the first United States quarantine enactments in February 23, 1799 and the federal officers were consequently required to help enforce the enactment. This marked one of the early, significant developments in the quarantine systems in the U.S.A.

Following an outbreak of varied epidemics in Caribbean, Mediterranean and several other tropical regions in 1808, the Boston Board of health ordered that from May to October of each year any vessels from the aforementioned regions shall be held up off the bay till they complete 25 days period since they left their respective ports. This was followed by the quarantine enforced by New York in 1832 after cholera killed close to 30,000 people in Britain. Ships were held at 300 yards radius off the dock if the captain knew there were cases of cholera aboard. Unfortunately, the infection slipped through the barrier and killed close to 3,500 resident of the City before it subsided in September.

Following heavy outbreaks of cholera and other infections in Europe, Egypt, Turkey etc., the New York City introduces a new Quarantine Act in 1863 that entrenches a quarantine office under a health officer with the legal mandate to quarantine any ship coming into the New York City for as long as the officer finds necessary and can as well order cargo removal and fumigation of ships. This was soon brought to test in 1866 when cholera riddled steamer "Virginia" docked in New York from Liverpool with 35 passengers and 2 crew members already dead. The New York health officer ordered for a quick quarantine and medical attention. This saved the day by only six hundred or thereabouts dying as compared to thousands that died in the previous epidemic.

Barely ten years down the line there arose the need to address the quarantine issue at a national level and the first national quarantine act came into effect in April 29, 1878 which mandated the federal officers to execute the State and the municipal quarantine rule and the following year, the U.S.A. Congress instituted the National Board of Health amidst fears of yellow fever attack. The board was to supplement the state efforts in enacting quarantine regulations though it was short lived since it was dissolved in 1883 after failing to carry out its mandate and running short of funding.

The 1890s ushered in the epoch of bacteriology. This was after an extensive scientific research following the numerous epidemic cases in the U.S. It was already determined, through scientific research, the life cycles of the various germs and hence the health officers could determine the length of the quarantine based on this information. In deed in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison, through his surgeon general announced that no foreign ships will be allowed to dock in the U.S. until and unless the ship has undergone a twenty days or more quarantine hold up and passed by the state authorities.

The subsequent year, the U.S. Congress passed the National Quarantine Act which created a national quarantine structure yet still allowing for the state managed quarantine. The act also stipulated the process and procedures of inspecting the foreign ships, immigrants, cargoes etc. As the marine Hospital Service do now at the federal level.

With turn of the century, there came more concrete actions and development concerning quarantine the U.S.A. In 1902 the Pan American Bureau was formed and was among the first organization formed in the 20th Century. The purpose of the bureau was to heighten the quarantine issue to the national level and consequently the control of diseases to the world stage. Barely a year later, New York City Department of Health established a quarantine facility on the North Brother Island in Riverside Hospital. The facility was aimed at offering TB patients an area for quarantine. This became the famous quarantine site for Mary Mallon, widely known… [END OF PREVIEW]

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History of Quarantine in the United States.  (2010, May 18).  Retrieved December 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/history-quarantine-united-states/1652109

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