Quarantining Small-Pox 1858

 
 
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It must be very annoying to one who arrives in our bay, languid and exhausted with the qualms of a twenty five days' tossing on the ocean. Trinity's spire and the Crystal Palace dome, and the chimney of his own house lying clear in sight, his trunks packed for immediate debarkation, and his mouth watering for the early greeting of his family, to be told at Quarantine that inasmuch as somebody had small-pox on board during the passage, he must go inside the Quarantine enclosure and make himself as comfortable as may be for seven days more.

The loss of time, the irksomeness of imprisonment within even a Staten island pickle, and the home-sickness inevitable to a family man after a long absence and his family within an hour's sail if he were set at liberty, are only compensated by the remembrance that for the week of leisure, the ship-owners foot the board bills, that it is the law, and that it would be a still greater annoyance to carry a loathsome disease into the bosom of one's family, and to be pointed out as the man who caused undertakers to be greatly in demand in every neighborhood he visits.

Our Health Officer has been very strict in enforcing a compliance with the regulations in these respects. He has been very roundly abused for it of course, both in this port and other ports, like Boston and Quebec, where they do things after a different fashion. But the facts show that our blamed Health Officer and his stringent quarantine have alone saved us from rotting with small-pox. During the last ten months, ten vessels, with an aggregate of 3,328 passengers have been detained at Quarantine on account of small-pox. The number of cases on board at the time of arrival was 81, and 83 cases broke out among the passengers after they had been landed at Quarantine. How many hundreds more would have developed it but for their immediate vaccination can never be known, but certainly the annoyances of the detention of passengers were sufficiently atoned for by the prevention of the broad-cast infection that would be inevitable under a less rigid system. Both the regulations so much complained of, the vaccination of every person on board and his five or seven days' detention within Quarantine enclosures are founded in reason.

The vaccination is necessary because no one can say who has not been exposed to the infection, and with the careless vaccination that is customary the world over, Russia alone perhaps excepted, even the vaccinated might suffer slight symptoms of the varioloid, which, however, would suffice to infect with genuine small-pox any unvaccinated infant. The seven days' detention is wise, because a person exposed to the infection on the day of landing could not be pronounced entirely safe within that time. And to those not exposed until near the termination of the voyage, the immediate vaccination would be likely to modify, if not prevent, the coming disease; for, while the variolous disease requires nearly a fortnight to be developed, the vaccine disease has thoroughly entered the system, and done all it can toward modifying the variolous within seven days. Hence, the seven days are quite sufficient.

It is a significant fact that, though there are over a dozen deaths from small-pox weekly, in this City, not one of them during the year has been traceable to; vessels arriving here from abroad; and that many are directly caused by the infection of emigrants arriving by way of Boston and Canada. With as loose a way as prevails "down East," of admitting infected vessels to the wharves of New York, there is n o question that nearly a hundred emigrants fully charged with the poison of small-pox would have been emptied upon the City, or dispatched, messengers of death, over the lines of Railroad that radiate from the metropolis. To those who are disposed to revile the Health Officer and abuse the Board of health, for the stringency of the New York Quarantine, we commend a careful perusal of the following table, compiled by Dr. Walser, of the Marine Hospital on Staten Island. The fourth column exhibits the number of cases removed to the Hospital immediately on arrival, and the fifth the number of cases that broke out during the detention at Quarantine, among the presumed to be well when they landed:

 
Date of Arrival at N.Y.

July 14
July 16
Aug.4
Aug. 11
Sept. 1
May 10
May 21
May 21
May 22
May 25
Names of Vessels

Ellen Austin
Albert Gallatin
Amalia
Carolina
Reinhart
Universe
Haroest
Dewitt Clinton
Alberto
American Union
Port of Clearance

Liverpool
Liverpool
Bremen
Bremen
Bremen
Liverpool
Havre
Liverpool
Bremen
Liverpool
No. of Passengers

497
581
143
165
337
239
256
437
377
296
No.ca's ar'd.

21
16
4
2
16
2
5
5
3
7
No. after l'd'g.

39
28
2
..
3
..
3
2
5
1

Totals              3,328 passengers                 81                              83           

       
 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Quarantining Small-Pox 1858
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

New York Times Jun. 3, 1858. p. 4 (1 page)
Time & Date Stamp: