Feel free to ignore this post because it is a little niche, but my brain wouldn’t let me rest until I wrote out my thoughts and I wondered if other people might find this interesting too.
So, I am a medical history nerd. I am more familiar with the Victorian era and some of the advancements (and failures) from that era, however the setting of this game during the Regency era in the middle of a pandemic got me thinking about germ theory.
Germ theory is the basic understanding of how disease spreads and it’s what we understand today as the cause of infections. Basically that microbes like bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc cause disease. Before this, the prevailing theory is that miasma, or bad air, caused disease. At least in Western society, there wasn’t really a shift from miasma theory to germ theory until the mid-1800s with one of my favorite historical figures Dr. John Snow.
It’s sort of hard to pin down who exactly came up with the idea of germ theory. There’s references to people being unclean and exiled from society because of disease in Mosaic Law, thus implying an understanding that there is person to person transmission of Something that causes others to get sick. Romans and Greeks had some understanding of an infectious something as well, and so did Ancient India. Islamic scholars in the Middle Ages articulated the idea of transmissible, infectious seeds. Anton van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch man, finally observed microorganisms under the microscope in the 1670s.
I hear you saying, “Sure, all this is cool, but what does it have to do with Romancing Jan?” I’m getting there.
Long story short, if a pandemic similar to the one we are experiencing now happened in the Regency era of our world, miasma theory would most likely influence the rich elite to flee the city centers and hold parties on their estates, thinking that they were fleeing the ‘bad air’. (Which some of the elites did do during the Victorian era, check out the Great Stink of 1858.) However Romancing Jan is an alt history, so I think it would be just as reasonable to expect that germ theory has caught on more quickly in this world--probably with better international relations and trade of knowledge between Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East--and would have been vaguely more responsible about mask wearing, keeping safely apart and limiting gatherings.
TLDR-- Germ theory did exist in the Regency era and with the wiggling of the Romancing Jan timeline, our characters probably didn’t throw Masque of the Red Death parties.
Bonus fact: With the change in the timeline, we still almost certainly had vaccines. The idea for the smallpox vaccine in Western society came from a Cotton Mather, who learned the technique of variolation from the enslaved person Onesimus, teaching a practice that has been done in Africa for generations. In Romancing Jan, without the slave trade, this information would likely have been shared much more freely and attributed to the actual discoverers/refiners in Africa.