The emergence of a contagious disease posing threat to mankind can only be stopped from spreading when the affected locations are quarantined. Apart from developing and administering new treatment plans, a population in an infected zone should be quarantined to reduce risks and to stop the pandemic disease from spreading. In this section, we will discuss and learn the meaning of ‘quarantine’ and how the concept developed over the years. It is considered to be a preventive measure chosen for stopping an infectious disease from affecting a large population.
The term ‘quarantine’ is the explanation of the separation of an infected population or the entire mass of people with proper restriction guidelines in order to reduce or stop the count of infected persons. This is a practice that has been developed and utilized when a known or unknown disease starts infecting people from one location to the other. The advent of the COVID 19 infection has given us an actual understanding of this practice.
This practice is also termed quarantine preventive medicine as it is required to halt the outbreak in a mechanical way. It helps the healthcare infrastructure of a city, state, country, or even a continent to stop highly infectious diseases from spreading. It can also be associated with isolation. Those who are infected are isolated from non-infected people. This practice continues when the count of infected patients reduces to a considerable extent.
In this aspect, we need to understand and differentiate the meaning of isolation and quarantine properly. When an infected patient is kept under supervision away from the healthy population, it is called isolation. When an entire population, infected or uninfected, is stopped from freely roaming around in an outbreak zone, it is called quarantine.
The earliest practices were based on non-scientific grounds where the infectious disease was controlled with extreme isolation measures. One of the first recorded quarantine examples can be related to leprosy. The outbreak of this disease mangled the population in different parts of the world. The infected persons were either rejected to stay with the rest of the population or were extremely isolated. Preventive measures such as thoroughly cleaning garments or burning them were practised.
The same happened in a different format when bubonic plague hit the settlements. The healthy communities started to control the incoming of new goods and provisions. The persons were thoroughly checked for symptoms and then allowed to enter a healthy community. The 14th Century earmarked the advent of maritime activities. People from different parts of the world explored the sea and started to discover new lands for colonies.
It means that the disease-causing pathogens were also brought from one location to the other causing devastation. It is hard to identify the reason because of the lack of scientific instruments and methodologies. It is then the concept of quarantine was developed. The sea folks were told to stay on the ship for days to check whether they develop any unusual symptoms or not. It was the Levant who adopted this clever technique to quarantine the sailors in Venice.
It gave time to society to prepare and to recuperate from an imminent infection onboard. The time span was at least 30 days. It helped the infection to dissipate and finally eradicate. If it was a known infection, the treatment was done accordingly. A proper supply of essentials was given to the crew in a very protective way. If they were infected, it was an act of isolation. If they were not, it was termed a quarantine period. This word has been derived from the word ‘quarantina’ which means 40 days of separation and isolation from the mass.
As per historians, the time span was decided based on the days spent by Moses and Jesus Christ in the desert. As time passed, new concepts evolved in Venice. New quarantine stations were installed for sailing crews to take refuge during this period. It was quite effective and was adopted by the rest of the world as a Venetian model of quarantine. It was practised for a few centuries.
Later, in the 16th Century, a certification system was introduced where the last port, where a ship took shelter, will release a note that the port was free from any infectious disease. It was also accompanied by the visa from the consulate telling whether the crew can freely use the port. This practice was later introduced for yellow fever and cholera. In the 19th Century, the period of quarantine started varying. It was also used as a political and bureaucratic tool. Bribery and espionage were common.
Over the years, the concept of quarantine developed where the bureaucrats of different countries realized the importance of cooperation. To stop a pandemic from spreading, countries had to collaborate and come on a single ground of rules and protocols. With the advent of the epidemiology of diseases, the understanding of the situation became better and so did the cooperation level.
Due to the scientific advancement in healthcare practices, practising quarantine has become easier for all. The approaches of quarantine preventive medicine can be easily institutionalized in a location with the cooperation of the educated people living there. This helps us to control a highly infectious disease from spreading rampantly.
1. What is the difference between Quarantine and Isolation?
Ans: People who are not infected are separated from each other to reduce the risk of infection. Isolation is practised on the infected persons. It stops them from moving here and there as they can infect healthy persons.
2. What happens when an Unknown Disease Outbreak Occurs?
Ans: The entire population of a city, state, or country is quarantined to get time to find out the cause of the pandemic. It gives the researchers to find out the pathogens and to design a treatment plan. A testing method is also developed along with the quarantine rules to ensure the safety of the population. This is how the protocols are designed and implemented to stop an infection.