Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quarantine of 1896

Quarantine history in the United States dates back to the 17th century and has been practiced over the centuries. The first quarantine station and hospital in America was built at the port of Philadelphia in reaction to the 1793 yellow fever outbreak.

In the 19th century, during a mild outbreak of smallpox in the southern United States, the Bossier Parish Police Jury met and laid out the following quarantine guidelines on March 17, 1896:

“On motion and second, That this body resolve itself (Act 92 of 1892) into a Board of Health Committee, and that each member from the various wards are authorized to do and perform any and all acts necessary to prevent the spread of small pox in their respective wards and are authorized to make terms with physicians to vaccinate all parties who are unable to pay for the same, and each member to have all cases isolated, and to do and perform all acts necessary to prevent the spread of same. Physicians are to keep a record of all cases vaccinated, and the President of the Police Jury is hereby authorized to buy 1000 vaccine points.

“Be it enacted by the Police Jury of Bossier Parish, in open session convened, That the Vicksburg,
Shreveport and Pacific and the St. Louis Southwestern Railroads are hereby prohibited from carrying passengers or baggage into the limits of Bossier Parish from any district or place infected with small pox, unless passengers have a certificate from the Board of Health, or reputable physician from such district showing that they have not been liable to the contagion, or until after the examination by the physician hereinafter appointed, and that all baggage from any infected district has been properly disinfected.

“2d. That no steamboat or other water craft will be allowed to disembark any persons suffering from or liable to the small pox contagion, within limit of said parish.

“3d. Any corporation, company, or common carrier, violating these ordinances, shall be fined in the sum of $100, to be recovered before any court of competent jurisdiction.

“4th. That H, Neeson, M.D., be, and is hereby appointed quarantine physician for this parish, and to be stationed at Bossier City, Bossier parish, La., and invested with full authority as such.

According to the 1896 annual report of the Supervising Surgeon General of the Marine-Hospital Service of the United States, “The first case occurred April 1, 1896, at Willow Chute plantation, in a colored man, and the source of infection is given as Shreveport Charity Hospital. Three cabins on the plantation were infected by the first case, and 20 cases are reported. One other case occurred at Macks Bayou, which was sent to the Shreveport pesthouse at a cost to the parish of $125. All Colored; number of deaths not given. The last case developed May 20. The restrictive measures were ‘isolation, quarantine, and general vaccination.’ Three thousand five hundred and eighty vaccinations in person of both sexes and color. Aggregate cost to Bossier Parish for the 21 cases and incident expenses was $1,062.52 or $50.93 per case.”

Smallpox dates back at least 3,000 years and, in the 20th century alone, killed an estimated 300 million people. It was one of the deadliest diseases known to humankind. When Europeans came to North America, they brought this and other deadly diseases with them. Having never been exposed to these infectious diseases, which proved to be lethal to Native Americans, within a few generations, an estimated 90% of Native Americans were killed by smallpox and other infectious diseases brought over by European settlers.

The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949. In 1980, one hundred eighty-four years after British doctor Edward Jenner developed the vaccine in 1796, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox was eradicated worldwide.

By: Amy Robertson

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