The plague in Timisoara. Quarantine and isolation conditions in 1738

The plague in Timisoara.  Quarantine and isolation conditions in 1738

The plague reached the lands of Timisoara as a side effect of the war. The first reports on the health of the soldiers of the Grüne battalion were made in February-March 1738. A series of local measures followed, as well as a series of ordinances.

October 21, 1738: Quarantine and cleaning ordinance

From the beginning, the ordinance placed great emphasis on maintaining order and street and private cleanliness. It was forbidden to throw food scraps and garbage on the streets, the fine being 12 thalers. The rooms were disinfected by smoking: green wood was needed, because dry wood increased the risk of fire, preferably beech or oak wood, then fragrant plants were used such as sage, rosemary, road, laurel, writes Banat National Museum on the institution’s Facebook page.

In each house were needed the products for smoking the rooms: wood, vinegar, powder, sulfur, herbs; this procedure was repeated at least twice a day: vinegar or hot fire was poured on a hot brick. There was a commissioner who went from house to house to check on the health of the townspeople.

Outbreaks had to be reported and no one was allowed to leave or leave the closed house for another 40 days.

The ordinance also established rules for those caring for quarantined patients. Caregivers could not visit the house. They approached the yard and took from the window by word of mouth the wishes of the infected; the money taken from the sick by means of a spoon had to be subsequently washed with vinegar; the food brought was placed in a basket and hung in the air, from where it was picked up by those in the house.

When an infestation died in the house, it was quickly removed from the door, after which it closed again and the roommates remained isolated for another 40 days. After 7 days of complete quarantine, the furniture and other things in the house were disinfected.

The methods of disinfection or cleaning of objects denote in a unique way the level of medical science of the time. The things that were not destroyed were left in salt water for three days, then rinsed with clean water and left to dry for eight days. The things the patient used had to be burned. The clothes he wore before the pandemic were rinsed with water, smoked and put in the sun. The furniture could be taken out in the sun, and the room in question ventilated and smoked.

The mayor and councilors were held accountable for what was happening in the city.


Sandra Cristina Hirsch, “Caroline Timisoara” (book can be purchased from the secretariat Banat National Museum)

Photo above: Plagues in the Eighteenth Century, painting by William Blake

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