WHOEVER would have thought, this time a few months ago, that we'd soon all be so familiar with the concepts of self-isolation and social distancing as a means of disease control.

A flu or other virus pandemic has been top of the Government's list of major risks for years. It was always going to happen - especially in this modern era of global mass travel. In some ways, it is a surprise it didn't happen sooner. Which doesn't make it any less of a shock.

Of course, infectious diseases have been around as long as we have - longer, in fact. It's a pretty sure bet the dinosaurs had their own versions of the flu, millions of years before mankind ever appeared on the scene.

In the middle ages, whole villages were wiped out by the 'Black Death', a global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. It arrived in Europe in October 1347, when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina, according to History.com. Over the next five years, the Black Death would kill more than 20 million people in Europe - almost one-third of the continent’s population.

In modern times, perhaps the most devastating global pandemic was the Spanish flu of 100 years ago. Described as one of the 'deadliest pandemics in history', and lasting for 36 months from January 1918 to December 1920, this infected 500 million people - about a third of the world's population at the time - in three separate waves of infection. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million. It is possible that the effect of years of war may have increased the mortality rate, with malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals and poor hygiene adding to the appalling toll of deaths.

So, while the coronavirus itself may be new, the concept of a pandemic really isn't. And, in the absence of a specific treatment or vaccine, the main weapons we are using to try to tackle it - isolation and good hygiene - aren't new either. They're time-honoured.

In the 1870s, the York Corporation decided that the city needed its own 'fever' hospital, where patients with highly infectious diseases such as scarlet fever and typhoid could be treated.

Construction of the York City Fever Hospital on Huntington Road (later Yearsley Bridge Hospital) began in 1879, and the new hospital opened in 1880 as an institution where patients with infectious diseases could be kept in isolation.

The fever hospital initially took mainly patients with scarlet fever - a bacterial disease that caused a sore throat, high fever and bright red rash that covered most of the body. But it also took in patients with typhoid and children with polio, amongst other conditions.

Photographs of the hospital, mainly from the 1910s, show a hospital with open-sided wards - presumably fresh air was regarded as important - and plenty of outdoor seating areas for patients. Some patients seem to have been accommodated in individual huts: presumably because of the risk of cross-infection.

In 1948 the hospital became part of the NHS and was renamed Yearsley Bridge Hospital. It was one of five hospitals in the Leeds region specialising in the treatment of infectious diseases.

The steady decline in the number of infectious diseases such as scarlet fever and typhoid saw the hospital gradually become less used, however. It closed in December 1976 following the opening of York District Hospital. Some buildings were converted into a day centre for people with disabilities, and part of it was also used as an office for a team of York social workers.

Our photographs today come mainly from Explore York's new-look digital archive, images.exploreyork.org.uk, although a couple are sourced from elsewhere.

Stephen Lewis