COVID-19: Understanding Quarantine, Isolation and Social Distancing in a Pandemic

With coronavirus (COVID-19) dominating the news cycle, you’re starting to throw around words like “quarantine” with an uneasy casualness. But what do these words really mean for your life?

“Quarantine doesn’t have to be a scary thing,” explains infectious disease specialist Steven Gordon, MD. “And it’s an effective way to protect the public.”

Dr. Gordon explains the ins and outs of quarantine and other common terms connected with disease outbreaks.

What does quarantine mean?

Governments use quarantines to stop the spread of contagious diseases. Quarantines are for people or groups who don’t have symptoms but were exposed to the sickness. A quarantine keeps them away from others so they don’t unknowingly infect anyone.

Quarantines may be used during:

  • Outbreaks: When there’s a sudden rise in the number of cases of a disease.
  • Epidemics: Similar to outbreaks, but generally considered larger and more widespread.
  • Pandemics: Larger than epidemics, generally global in nature and affect more people.

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

While isolation serves the same purpose as quarantine, it’s reserved for those who are already sick. It keeps infected people away from healthy people to prevent the sickness from spreading.

Article by Health.Cleveland Clinic

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