Difference between Quarantine and Isolation

Isolation is a disease control method for humans or animals suffering from a contagious disease. Quarantine is a disease control method for humans or animals that are not infected but were exposed to the disease. Let’s check below the difference between the quarantine and isolation.

Difference between Quarantine and Isolation

Isolation and quarantine are common public health measures in cases of epidemics and pandemics, such as that caused by the coronavirus or COVID-19 in 2020.

What is Quarantine?

Quarantine is a measure of separation for healthy people, but who may have been exposed to the causative agents of the contagious disease.

With the application of this protocol, it can be verified whether the separated persons are indeed healthy or, on the contrary, whether they are carriers of the disease. In this case, they would go to the condition of hospital isolation depending on the type of pathology they have.

Types of Quarantine

There are two types of quarantine:

  1. Voluntary Quarantine

It refers to the protection measures that healthy people put in place to avoid being infected, or those who suspect that they may have the disease and want to make sure they do not infect others.

During the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic, many people chose to do voluntary quarantine in different parts of the world, especially those who had traveled or been in contact with people from the most affected countries.

  1. Mandatory or General Quarantine

It refers to a protocol imposed by local or national authorities together with health authorities and in which certain mandatory compliance measures are dictated for citizens. These measures include the restriction of movements within the city, the closure of borders, the limitation or suspension of international flights, etc.

The objective of mandatory quarantine is to prevent the epidemic or pandemic from continuing to spread, while protecting the population at risk (children, pregnant women, the elderly, etc.). This type of measure is usually the last resort, as it involves restrictions that affect people’s daily lives and have a severe impact on the economy.

Therefore, to ensure that mandatory quarantine is observed, protection measures often include lawsuits, fines or imprisonment for those who violate it.

What is Isolation?

Isolation, in hospital terms, is a sanitary measure that consists of separating people or animals with a contagious disease to prevent its spread. In this sense, the term only applies when the person who is separated or isolated already has the disease.

The first publication on hospital isolation measures dates from the 19th century. However, it was in the twentieth century that, thanks to scientific and technological advances, these measures was expanded and updated, especially in the eighties with the appearance of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS.

For this reason, since 1987, the year of the publication of the Universal Precautions of the Atlanta Center for Disease Control, it is considered that “all patients and their body fluids (…) should be considered potentially infectious and the necessary measures to prevent transmission from occurring”, referring not only to HIV, but to other infectious-contagious diseases, such as hepatitis B, C or any other that can be transmitted to health personnel or other patients.

Types of Isolation

There are several types of hospital isolation, depending on the pathogens involved:

  1. Respiratory Isolation

Also called “droplet isolation”, it refers to the separation measures for those patients who could infect other people through their saliva, either by talking, coughing or sneezing.

Respiratory isolation is applied in patients with influenza, pulmonary tuberculosis, measles, pertussis, rubella, meningococcus, myco-plasma pneumonia, or diphtheria.

  1. Enteric Isolation

These are the hospital measures taken to prevent the spread of pathogens found in fecal material or objects used by the patient.

Enteric isolation is appropriate in cases of bacterial gastroenteritis, amoebiasis, viral meningitis, giardiasis, and cholera.

  1. Protective Isolation

It is the hospital protocol that is followed with immune suppressed patients, who due to their condition require avoiding outside contact to protect their immune system.

Protective isolation is applied in cases of severe burns, transplants, chemotherapy or patients with HIV whose health is deteriorating.

  1. Contact Isolation

It refers to the separation of patients with pathologies that can be transmitted by contact with the skin or with objects that have been manipulated by the infected person.

Contact isolation is applied to patients with pediculosis (lice), rotavirus gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, congenital rubella, multi-resistant germs, impetigo, and scabies.