The Modern Quarantine Doesn't Require Banishment to an Island
the MPR take:
Isolating sick individuals has become a newsworthy topic with the recent Ebola outbreak, but quarantines have been used in infectious disease prevention as far back as the 1300s. During the outbreak of the plague, governments in Europe set formal protocols for establishing quarantines. Even the astronauts returning from the moon landing in 1969 were quarantined for three weeks until they were thoroughly tested for any diseases that could have been brought back with them. Islands have historically been used for quarantines, from the smallpox epidemic of the 1730s in New York City to the banishment of “Typhoid Mary” to North Brother Island for 24 years after she was blamed for infecting dozens with typhoid from her work as a cook. Besides preventing the spread of infectious diseases, a quarantine was meant to provide a sense of security, albeit a false one at times, for the uninfected. Typhoid Mary had not been the only cook spreading the disease, yet it was easy to single her out as a scapegoat to appease the public. Today’s specially designed suits, masks, ventilation systems, ambulance docking stations, and even transport systems have made modern quarantine practices as protective as possible, without the need for geographic relocation or social banishment of yesteryear.
On a flat green peninsula beneath a towering range of sea cliffs in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a hidden community of people who are isolated many times over. The first layer of their separation is the geographic divide of living on an archipelago with more than 2,000 miles of salt water extending in all directions. More than 8,000 people died at the colony, which served as a quarantine prison until 1969.
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