Rules To Be Observed In The Care And Management Of Quarantine, Isolation, And Disinfection, by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
This particular set of instructions is interesting for a variety of reasons. Obviously, principles of quarantine are nothing new with regards to public health, going all the way back to biblical times, and are certainly being used at present as I write this relating to the Coronavirus crisis that is going on right now. What is striking and remarkable as well is that this short set of instructions was written in 1911 but does not include any of the flu or related illnesses that have tended to provoke the most serious quarantines and pandemic fears over the past century or so around the world. It seems remarkable that the flu was not something that was feared at the time that this guide was written but would shortly become a very deadly illness. What is it that kept the flu under the radar and led the health commissioners instead to worry about such diseases as tetanus, anthrax, leprosy, and glanders, diseases that most of us have little fear of at present. In some ways, at least, our public health concerns have changed over the course of the last century, even if our techniques for maintaining public health have not.
This document is a very short one at four pages. The first page consists of scary warnings from the health commissioner of the state of Pennsylvania who wants the reader to take health concerns seriously, something that is still a concern. The second and third pages consist of various rules about the quarantining and isolation principles that apply to various diseases, by no means a complete list, and certainly not the sort of diseases that the state of Pennsylvania and others would shortly have to work with and take measures against. The last part of the document is a very short statement about the need to disinfect the clothing and surfaces touched by those who have died or even been diagnosed with infectious diseases. Again, despite the fact that this document is more than a century old, it remains remarkable that much of the advice here is precisely what would be told to people nowadays trying to protect themselves from disease, whether or not it is useful, at least it helps us to do something that makes us feel safer, which is probably the point.