Ports and disease
The origin of quarantine
Countries took great efforts to prevent the entry of infectious diseases from abroad. For centuries, the usual method was quarantine.
This was the detention of any ship either known to be carrying disease or coming from a port where an epidemic had broken out.
Quarantine delayed the disembarkation of passengers and the unloading of cargo until the ship seemed to be free of disease.
Quarantine was first used to keep out plague after the Black Death hit Europe. The term comes from the Italian word quarante - the 40-day period during which arriving ships were detained.
In time, quarantine was used for many other diseases, and most maritime countries set up a network of quarantine stations.
London's quarantine defences
The first quarantine station was at Stangate Creek, near Sheerness, on the Medway. Ships flying the quarantine flag were placed under guard here until they were declared healthy.
The shortcomings of quarantine
Quarantine was too crude to be effective for many reasons:
Clearly, a more sophisticated way of stopping the spread of disease was necessary.
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