CNN (April 25, 2009)
"As Hayden Henshaw was being rushed to the doctor's office after becoming ill, his father heard that his son's classmates had been struck with the deadly swine flu virus like the one sweeping through Mexico.
" Patrick Henshaw called his wife immediately to have Hayden checked for it. Later, they received the bad news.
"Hayden had become the third confirmed case of swine flu at his Texas high school. It is a virus that has killed 68 people in Mexico and infected at least eight people in the United States.
"Health officials arrived at the Henshaws' house Friday and drew blood from the whole family, then told them to stay inside and away from the public, Henshaw told CNN.
"The whole family is quarantined indefinitely, according to CNN-affiliate KABB. Henshaw said his family was shocked when they got the news about their son...."
I wouldn't like to have my family quarantined, but I understand the reasons.
Cholera outbreaks in 19th century America encouraged coordination of local quarantine systems. Then, the Public Health Service Act of 1944 established the federal government's authority to quarantine. (CDC) My father told me about very emotional resistance to quarantine - 'a man's home is his castle' sort of stuff. He thought it made sense to keep people from spreading diseases, if they didn't have the sense to stop themselves. I'm inclined to agree with him.
It can't be easy, though, having to stay home and miss work. On the other hand, going to work, and maybe giving the boss a fatal disease doesn't sound like a good idea.
Me? I'm lucky. My work gets done in my home, and the only contact I have to have with the outside world is digital. The sort of viruses that travel over data channels affect computers, not humans - so a quarantine wouldn't have that much effect on me.
Quarantine: Not a New IdeaQuarantines go back at least to the 14th century, when Venice made possibly-infected ships sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. The CDC article on the history of quarantines doesn't say so, but my guess is that the 14th century anchorage thing was in response to the Black Death, that got Europe's attention starting in 1348. We apparently get the word "quarantine" form the Italian phrase, "quaranta giorni," "40 days." (More at "History of Quarantine (CDC), "The Black Death of 1348 to 1350" (historylearningsite.co.uk).)
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