A. What is a Quarantine?

Merrain-Webster™ dictionary defines Quarantine as

“a restraint upon the activities or communication of persons or the transport of goods designed to prevent the spread of disease or pests.” 

“to isolate from normal relations or communication.”

The word quarantine came from Italy when the Venetians quarantined ships for 40 days.  Quaranta means 40. 

Numerous animal studies have verified the effectiveness of quarantining.  It has been shown to be effective in human diseases as well, such as tuberculous, measles, diphtheria, and the like. 

However, the success depends upon early detection and prompt strict isolation.   

  • Early detection means before the contagion has acquired a foothold i.e. before becoming sporadic.   No studies were located that showing that quarantine works once the disease has become widespread.  The more contagious a disease, the earlier the actions must occur. 

Prompt means immediately.  Decisions to quarantine must be able to be made on the day of acquiring notice.  Waiting for a judge to issue an order may be too late.  On the other hand, the 4th Amendment to the constitution bars unreasonable seizure and a hearing should be scheduled as soon as possible. 

Strict means no holes.  The quarantine must isolate the infected people from others.  The more people that come into contact with those infected, the greater the chance of escape.  That is why, no one under quarantine may leave the isolation area without safeguards.  Typhoid Mary caused substantial damage when she escaped quarantine and began serving food.   This is critical to Quarantine – no holes. 

The most convincing recent demonstration of quarantine were the actions taken by South Korea and Japan.  Both of these countries have a death rate of 5 per million.  As a reference, the United States has a death rate of 267 per million, UK – 451, Belgium – 726, Italy -495, and the world 40. 

Their means of detection was by simple temperature measurements and by tracing those who arrived from infested areas.  Those people were then tested for the virus. If positive they were in-home quarantined under strict supervision.  The Korean and Japanese methodology was so successful that it will probably be the model in the handling of all future pandemics at least at the early stages.

The Japanese and Korean examples are anecdotal and do not establish proof of effectiveness.  However, there are hundreds of studies that do prove the benefits of quarantine.   The Japanese and Korean method provides guidance of the procedural steps to be taken in the modern era.