What is the difference between Isolation and Quarantine


The need to understand the difference between Isolation and quarantine cannot be overemphasized as these are two different terms that a number of people are using interchangeably. This has become so common especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Isolation and quarantine is a public health practice used to protect the public by preventing contact with people who have or may have a contagious disease.

Most times we can’t draw a clear distinction between the terms Isolation and quarantine, while the practice of quarantine began in the 14th century and was designed to protect coastal cities from the plague epidemic. Ships arriving in Venice from the infected port must be moored for 40 days before landing. This practice, known as quarantine, is derived from the Italian word quaranta giorni which means 40 days. the word Isolation comes from the latin insulare, which literally means “make an island” it is still new in English: even the verb “isolation” was not recorded until the 19th century.

difference between isolation and quarantine

Appreciating the difference between isolation and quarantine

In order to better appreciate the difference between these two terms, let’s begin by knowing exactly what they mean.



Isolation refers to the separation of patients with a contagious disease from those who are not sick. Hospitals use isolation for patients with a known infectious disease that can easily spread to other people. A person who has COVID-19 should be isolated in a specific room away from other family members. Family members should use a separate bedroom and even a separate bathroom, if possible. It is also recommended that the sick person eat or feed in his room away from other members of the household. Household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, linens and other items should not be in the same home as a person infected with COVID-19. It is important to ban all visitors and non-essential people from the home.

According to Dr Cowl, “Quarantine is different from isolation,”. He went on to add that “Isolation is when we take somebody who is positive for the disease and keep them away from everyone else. If you’re in isolation and you’re at home, you want to be isolated from your family members as much as possible. If you have access to even a basic surgical mask, you should be using that type of personal protective equipment.”

In health-care settings, isolation is one of several measures that can be taken to implement infection control: to prevent the spread of infectious disease from patients to other patients, health-care workers and visitors, or from outsiders to specific patients (reverse isolation). There are various forms of isolation, some of which contact procedures are modified, others are remote from all others. In a system designed and regularly revised by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), various levels of patient isolation, including the application of one or more formally described “preventive measures.”

difference between isolation and quarantine

Isolation is most commonly used when a patient is known to have an infectious (human-to-human) viral or bacterial disease. Special equipment is used to manage patients in various forms of isolation. These most common items include personal protective equipment (robes, masks and gloves)and engineering controls (positive pressure chambers, negative pressure chambers, laminar flow equipment, and various mechanical and structural barriers). Dedicated isolation wards may be pre-established in hospitals or temporarily designated isolation wards in facilities in the event of an outbreak emergency.


Various forms of the spread of Infectious Diseases

These four types of infectious disease transmission can occur:

(1) Contact transmission, which can be through direct physical contact, indirect contact with a heat generator, or droplet contact, airborne infection transmission short distance

(2) Vehicle transmission involving contaminated objects

(3) Airborne transmission involving airborne particles

(4) Vector transmission, spread by insects or animals, the transmission may occur in a person’s home, school, workplace, health facility, and other shared spaces within the community, depending on the nature of the disease. Even if a person takes all the necessary precautions to protect himself from disease, such as getting the latest vaccine and maintaining good hygiene habits, he or she may still get sick. Some people may not be able to protect themselves from the disease, and if they are infected with the disease, serious complications may occur. Therefore, Disease Isolation is an important prevention and control practice used to protect others from disease infection.

Disease Isolation can prevent hospital-acquired infection (HCAIs) medical-acquired infections, reduce the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections, and address emerging infectious disease threats worldwide.

Disease Isolation is related to the work and safety of health care workers. Health-care workers may be exposed to various types of disease on a regular basis and are at risk of becoming ill. Disease transmission can occur between patients and health care workers, even if health care workers take all necessary precautions to minimize transmission, including appropriate health and up-to-date vaccines. If a health-care worker has an infectious disease, it may be transmitted to other health-care workers in the health-care facility or to susceptible patients. This may include patients with weakened immune systems and may be at risk of serious complications.


Types of Isolation

  • Contact isolation is used to prevent the spread of diseases that can be spread through contact with open wounds. Health-care workers who come into contact with a patient during contact isolation must wear gloves and, in some cases, a robe
  • Respiratory isolation is used to spread the disease through exhaled particles, people who come into contact with such patients must wear a mask.
  • Reverse isolation is a way to prevent patients with impaired health from being contaminated by other people or objects. It usually involves the use of laminar airflow and mechanical barriers(to avoid physical contact with others) to isolate the patient from any harmful pathogens present in the external environment.
  • High isolation is used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases (such as smallpox, Ebola, Corona/COVID-19) that are abnormally highly contagious or have serious consequences. It prescribes mandatory use of gloves (or double-hand glove if appropriate), protective glasses (goggles or mask), waterproof clothing (or full-body Tyvek suit if appropriate), and respirators, rather than simple surgical masks, and sometimes also negative pressure chamber or powered air purifier (PAPRs).
  • Strict isolation [for diseases transmitted by air, in some cases transmitted by contact. Patients must be isolated to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. People who are strictly sequestered are often kept in special rooms of facilities designed for this purpose. These rooms are equipped with a special toilet and care equipment and provide sinks and waste disposal for workers leaving the area.
  • Self-isolation or family isolation [19] is the act of voluntarily isolating oneself to prevent infection of oneself or others. This practice became significant during the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the features are;

* Stay at home and take high doses of vitamin C and immunity enhancers

* Separate yourself from other people—for example, try not to be in the same room with other people at the same time

* Ask friends, family, or delivery services to perform tasks such as buying groceries, medicines, or other purchases

* Ask the delivery driver to leave items outside for collection.


Quarantine is aimed at separating and restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease so that they can observe and see if they are getting sick. These people may have been exposed to the disease and not known about it, or they may have had the disease but not had symptoms. Quarantine helps limit the spread of infectious disease.

Because of the current pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus, many people have been told to quarantine. Quarantine means staying home and away from other people for as long as possible for 14 days. This includes avoiding shopping, eating, socializing, public places, and large crowds of people.

Isolation and Quarantine should not be mistaken for the same thing. Quarantine can be defined as mandatory separation and separation, restricting the movement of a healthy individual or group of individuals who may come into contact with the agent to prevent further infection once the infection has occurred.

Quarantine is the restriction of humans or other living things that they may have or may actually come into contact with infectious diseases until it is determined that they no longer pose a health risk. The terminology and concept of quarantine are deeply rooted in the culture and World Health procedures and periodically reviews the highest interest in the epidemiological process. In the past, the concept of isolation was used to refer to the period of isolation of people alone, and in recent times it has been applied to animals and things (Gensini et al., 2004).

In the course of Western history, segregation has been practised in many different ways, through periods of heightened consideration, and periods of relative neglect. In Europe and North America, isolation was grossly underestimated in the last decades of the twentieth century, because the spectacular achievements of modern medicine-from effective vaccines to potent antibiotics-also produced the wrong impression in the public, but sometimes in health systems and operators, that the fight against infectious diseases can be considered a victory. Recently, the world-wide”new” spread of diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the reality of avian influenza, provides evidence of the fact that humans are still engaged in the fight against pathogens. These infectious diseases determine the level of quarantine penetration: in the United States, because of the avian flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have opened many new control stations at the border points of the population influx (Mafart and Perret, 2003).

Therefore, examining segregation from the perspective of historical teaching is a significant formative opportunity to illustrate an ever-relevant health measure, whose general potential and scope must not only be used by health managers, but also by medical historians.

In quarantine, physical and geographic limitation of uninfected populations that may be exposed to infectious diseases has been variously identified as a management strategy following bioterrorism. The logistics of this approach are complex and impractical, and it can be associated with adverse consequences, such as the increased risk of disease transmission in quarantined groups or public disorder. It seems clear that the potential public health benefits of quarantine may outweigh the potential problems it generates in only limited cases involving highly spread lethal agents. In most cases, it is best to adopt a disease-specific containment strategy based on the principles of transmission Epidemiology and disease prevention.

Quarantine and isolation are public health tools that involve physical separation and incarceration of infected persons to prevent the spread of disease and protect general public health. Quarantine is used for symptomatic individuals, while isolation is used for asymptomatic individuals. The decision to segregate should be based on the best available evidence, not driven by fear or political motives. In general, for quarantine purposes, the disease must be transmitted from person to person and must occur before symptoms occur. Once symptoms appear, a person will be isolated. The disease must also have high mortality and morbidity.



In isolation; separation is done between sick people with a contagious disease and people who are not sick while quarantine; people who were exposed to a contagious disease are separated to see if they become sick.

While both of them almost insinuate the same thing which is separation a clear distinction lays in the fact that the reason for this “setting apart” gives them their unique difference.

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Reference: https://www.sciencedirect.com/




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