Difference between isolation and quarantine: Coronavirus questions

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020
What's the difference between isolation and quarantine
What's the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation and quarantine are both public health practices that are being utilized to limit the spread of COVID-19.

While you might hear both words being spoken about in regards to the recent coronavirus outbreak, the words are not interchangeable. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, isolation and quarantine both have very different meanings.


Isolation restricts the movement of infected patients to help stop the spread of disease.

Isolation is the term used when dealing with patients who have been identified as having COVID-19.

For example, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 would be placed in isolation.

For those who are severely ill, isolation would be at a hospital or medical center. Those who are infected but not seriously ill can self-isolate at home.

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Quarantine also helps limit the spread of communicable disease.

Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who might have been exposed to COVID-19

Individuals are quarantined to see if they become ill.

These people may have been exposed to the virus and do not know it, or they may have the virus but do not show symptoms as of yet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the period of quarantine for COVID-19 is 14 days from the last date of exposure.

The CDC says this is because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.