Kollam: 'Quarantine' is a familiar word for all nowadays. This word was first used in Malayalam in a travelogue titled 'Varthamanapusthakam' written in 18th century. 'Varthamanapusthakam' is the first ever travelogue written in an Indian language. It was penned by Paremmakkal Thoma Cathanar.
Thoma Cathanar wrote the book based on his journey to Rome for religious purposes between 1778 and 1786. He travelled from Madras to Lisbon in ship and then went to Vatican.
The mention about 'quarantina' was made when he wrote about the visit to Italy. The people arriving from other places in ship were made to stay in a shelter at the port for some days before allowing to enter the city. This was called 'quarantina' in Italy.
Smallpox was the deadliest epidemic during those days. So, the people in ships were allowed to enter the city only after 40 days of arrival. The custom of taking bath on the 40th day from being affected by a disease may be linked to this system.
The word 'quarantine' derived from Latin and it means forty. Later, it was used to refer to isolation, ship ban and other similar meanings. It is believed that quarantine system was started during the plague outbreak in 13th or 14th century.