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Safety first; Maritime Tales by Stephen Guy of Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Byline: Stephen Guy

THE growth of sea travel brought with it the added hazard of spreading diseases around the globe. Quarantine or compulsory isolation was used in efforts to contain the spread of infection.

Ships had carried illnesses which devastated communities not previously exposed to outsiders. For example, millions of Carib people, who gave their name to the Caribbean, died largely because of infections brought to their island homes.

The word quarantine may originate from the Venetian-Italian expression for 40 days, indicating a typical period of isolation.

Britain passed a Quarantine Act in 1710 - the first major legislation to stop the spread of plague and contagion. More measures were introduced to counter renewed outbreaks of disease on the continent.

Whole ships and their cargoes were sometimes burnt or sunk rather than risk infections coming ashore.

Methods of cleansing cargoes during quarantine were often basic - goods could be This Quarantine signs of having in the sea brought up from the holds to be exposed to the morning dew on deck.

In 1755 pest houses were introduced on floating hulks where suspect cargoes were left until given the all-clear.

The 1788 Quarantine Act introduced stringent provisions affecting cargoes particularly aimed at ships from the Baltic.

All quarantined ships were required to hoist a yellow flag in the daytime and show a light on the main topmast at night.

Bible shows been dipped Two hundred years ago ships from countries hit by epidemics such as plague were quarantined when they arrived in the River Medway in Kent - this was where many vessels from the Mediterranean docked.

Ships were detained for up to 65 days while cargoes were in quarantine. Pilots who had boarded such vessels to navigate them past hazards then had to stay on board for 15 days.

As conditions improved, quarantine rules were relaxed. The cholera outbreak in 1831 was probably the last time mass quarantine measures were imposed.

The Seized gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum explores various health measures used by Customs.

A quarantine Bible is on display with its metal case. A Customs officer handed the Bibles to ships' captains arriving in port.

The captain had to swear on the Bible that both ship and crew were clear of disease before being cleared to berth his vessel.

This example shows signs of being soaked in sea water. It was thought that doing this would cleanse the Bible of diseases.

Britain's strict animal quarantine laws ended in 2000 following the introduction of vastly-improved rabies vaccines and treatments.

The UK will harmonise its pet movement rules with the rest of the EU from January 1 2012, but all pets will still have to be vaccinated against rabies.

? Buy the Maritime Tales book (pounds 3.99) at the Merseyside Maritime Museum - open seven days a week, admission free - and at bookshops, newsagents and merseyshop.com.

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This Quarantine Bible shows signs of having been dipped in the sea TAKE CARE: In the early 1880s ports like Liverpool could only control disease by quarantining suspect vessels
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 29, 2011
Words:504
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