Long before the germ theory of disease was postulated or proven, people observed that disease could be contagious spread by direct and indirect contact with the sick. Quarantines, for example, were used in 14th-century Italy to combat the plague, and travelers were shunned, clothes of the dead were burned, and the streets were cleaned of refuse in order to reduce contagion.
As the microbial world became better known, the precise mechanisms of disease transmission could be studied and more fully understood and the protective measures against disease became more directed and more effective. It is now common practice for people to be tested and screened for specific diseases and for perishable foods to be monitored for contamination. One of the simplest measures hand washing is also one of the most effective.
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