A quarantine is used to prevent diseases spreading to people or animals by isolating those infected. The word “quarantine” originates from the Venetian dialect form of the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning ‘forty days’.
Between 1348 and 1359, the Black Death wiped out an estimated 30% of Europe’s population, and a significant percentage of Asia’s population. In order ro prevent the spread of the disease ships and people were isolated for 40-days before they could enter the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Original documents from 1377, which are kept in the Archives of Dubrovnik, state that before entering the city, newcomers had to spend 30 days (a trentine) in a restricted place (originally nearby islands) waiting to see whether the symptoms of Black Death would develop. Later, isolation was prolonged to 40 days and was called quarantine.
Quarantines were used before and after the plague. Those afflicted with leprosy were historically isolated from society, as were the attempts to stop the invasion of syphilis in Northern Europe in about 1490, the advent of yellow fever in Spain at the beginning of the 19th century, and the arrival of Asiatic cholera in 1831.
The first lazaret (quarantine station) was founded by Venice in 1403, on a small island adjoining the city. In 1467, Genoa followed Venice’s measures, and in 1476 the old leper hospital of Marseille was converted into a plague hospital. The great lazaret of Marseilles was founded in 1526 on the island of Pomègues. Some would be converted to other uses once the lazaret wasn’t required anymore.
Plain yellow, green, and even black flags have been used to symbolize disease in both ships and ports, with the color yellow having the longest history. It was used to mark houses of infection, previous to its use as a maritime marking color for disease. The present flag used for the purpose is the “Lima” (L) flag, which is a mixture of yellow and black flags previously used. It is sometimes called the “yellow jack” which is also a name for yellow fever. This could be where the name came from.
The first astronauts to visit the Moon were quarantined upon their return at the specially built Lunar Receiving Laboratory.
New developments for quarantine include quarantine vehicles such as an ambulance bus, mobile hospitals, and lockdown/invacuation (inverse evacuation) procedures, as well as docking stations for an ambulance bus to dock to a facility that’s under lockdown.