Jul 25, 2005
I know there were a number of serious, contagious diseases around in 1912, like cholera which had just had a major outbreak in the United States the year before, and tuberculosis was still killing about a sixth of all adults. The study of germs was still considered a sketchy and controversial medical practice.

So I was wondering if medicine aboard the Titanic offered any form of quarantine procedures if a serious, contagious disease were to break out in its first or second class passengers. (I read that 3rd class was already considered under quarantine.) Were there any standard procedures for luxury liners of the time or did they just ignore that kind of thing?

Also, I was wondering if each class had its own medical area, or if there was just one for the whole ship.

Dave Gittins

Apr 11, 2001
There was a hospital well aft on the starboard side of D Deck. It included an area reserved for infectious cases. The hospital was for all classes. Two doctors were employed.

The first and second class passengers were assumed to be healthy on embarking and the third class were examined. The voyage was only expected to last week and there wasn't much chance of major medical dramas. The risk was probably less than it is on some current cruise ships, where viruses are spread about the ship by air conditioning. There have been numerous cases in the last few years.

Noel F. Jones

May 14, 2002
In 1863 New York State passed a Quarantine Act calling for a quarantine office run by a health officer with the power to detain any ship entering the port of New York for as long as he deemed necessary. Under the Act the health officer could also order all cargo to be removed and a ship cleaned and fumigated.

In 1893 Congress passed the National Quarantine Act. The Act created a national system of quarantine while still permitting state-run quarantines. The Act codified standards for medically inspecting immigrants, ships, and cargoes.

In general it is incumbent upon the master of an arriving ship to declare whether or not his ship is free of infectious disease. This was latterly done on a WHO-standardised Maritime Declaration of Health but whether such a form was extant in 1912 I cannot say.

Other documents producable to the inspecting officer would be the Certificate of Clearance from the last port of call (which might include a declaration that the port was free of infection) and the ship's certificate of de-ratization.

As you say, all classified immigrants were subject to health inspection. The disposal of infectious cases in first class would presumably be at the discretion of the inspecting officer (I doubt they would quarantine a millionnaire!) but ostensibly any vessel self-declared to be infectious or otherwise deemed to be infectious upon due inspection would be liable to detention and denied intercourse with the shore until deemed safe. The public safety must be the deciding factor.

An examination of the contemporaneous local press for port health incidents might prove fruitful.

This site might be of interest:


Jul 25, 2005
Good point. Air conditioning probably does spread more disease now then would have been spread back then.

That's a great site, Noel, thanks. I have a weakness for learning about contagious diseases and he way that they spread and what people of each time period did to contain them.