Self-quarantine vs Social Distancing vs Isolation?

In the simplest of terms, self-quarantine is the practice of complete isolation of one’s self and one’s family from contact from others. This is to prevent or the eliminate the spread of a pathogen to others. This means that a person in quarantine should have absolutely no contact with others, including leaving the house to go to work, school, shopping, gym ETC. This also means that there should be no visitors to the house. When this person needs to be in contact with others, personal protection equipment (ie masks, disposable gowns and gloves) should be used. The idea of self-quarantine means that a person is voluntarily doing it; In other words, they are not being fined or held in quarantine by the government. Quarantine is useful for people with potential exposure as they are waiting to see if they start to exhibit symptoms because they could be infectious to others before showing signs of being ill. Quarantine occurs for a specific period depending on when a specific pathogen could be contagious (remember many people can be contagious without symptoms –ie tuberculosis, measles, chicken pox in addition to COVID-19). This is in contrast to the idea of social distancing. Social distancing is not to eliminate the spread of a specific pathogen but it is to make it less likely to come into contact with it. We know that when people are closer together they are more like to come into contact with a person carrying an illness even without direct contact through hand shaking, hugging or sharing beverages. Think of a person coughing in a confined space like an elevator. This can slow the progression of a virus or pathogen through a community and help limit the number of people who may get sick at once. But with social distancing because people are still able to go out into public there is risk of catching the circulating illness. This is in contrast to isolation. Isolation means quarantine with special precautions for people symptomatic and or confirmed to have an infection or people at significant risk of contracting a disease. This means that any interaction with these people will occur in a limited basis and with personal protection equipment for the patient and the care giver. This will include disposable gowns, gloves, masks and eye protection. For information on who should self-quarantine vs practice social distancing and how to implement self-quarantine please visit the following site : or visit and contact the Illinois Department of Public Health As always please contact our office for questions or advise. Also please remember if told to implement self-quarantine then please understand that release from self -quarantine should be dictated by a physician or a public health entity.

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