Once the coronavirus COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the word ‘quarantine’ automatically shot up among vocabulary use worldwide. Quarantine is a life-saving period of necessary isolation of a person with a highly contagious disease or has been exposed to it.
The dictionary meaning of quarantine is “a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to an infectious or contagious disease are placed”.
In these COVID-19 times, a person has to be in quarantine or self-quarantine for any of the following:
1) Testing positive for the Novel Coronavirus
2) Having travelled to a country that has reported a large number of coronavirus/COVID-19 cases
3) Being in proximity to a person who has tested positive for Novel Coronavirus or suffering from COVID-19
What does quarantine mean:
Governments and health authorities use quarantines to stop the spread of contagious diseases. Quarantines are also for people or groups who do not have symptoms but were exposed to the disease. The quarantine keeps them away from others so they do not unknowingly infect anyone.
Quarantines may be used during:
- Outbreaks – a sudden rise in reported cases of a disease
- Epidemics – similar to outbreaks, but usually larger and more widespread than an outbreak
- Pandemics: the granddaddy of epidemics, generally global and affecting hundreds of thousands or more people.
Apart from those suffering from COVID-19, people suspected or with confirmed exposure to those with Coronavirus have also been asked to self-quarantine. These quarantines are essential, even for world leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to be quarantined, and so too German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week after a person she came in contact tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus.
Experts recommend at 14 days – isolation period for both ‘exposed-to’ and infected cases. But the decision to discontinue quarantine should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with your doctor and state and local health departments. The decision will be based on the risk of infecting others.
Stay home – Avoid leaving the house unless it is very essential to go out. That means no work, school, no outings. India and many countries have imposed a lockdown to ensure people stay at home and go out only for necessities such as buying groceries.
Be monitored – Your local or state health department will most likely keep tabs on your health. You may need to speak to your doctor also.
Being with pets – As yet, no evidence to prove pet animals can spread COVID-19. But be safe than sorry. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, avoid physical contact with the pet animal.
Keep your cutlery, bedding separate – Ensure that whatever cutlery and bedding you use (plates, spoons, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedsheets) is used only by you and not others in your house.
Maintain social distancing – Social distancing refers to measures taken to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. At the individual level, it means to keep a sufficient distance (at least six feet or two meters) between yourself and another person to ensure you do not get infected and others from you. Lockdowns, school closures, directives to work from home are social distancing measures that help to enforce at a community level.
Maintain hand hygiene – regularly wash your hands with soap water/disinfectant.
Dr. Gopal D, Senior Physician & Intensivist – Internal Medicine, Sahyadri Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Shimoga