With conditions in Maharashtra getting worse because of this novel Coronavirus and with news coming in that Maharashtra stands on top of the states affected by this dreaded epidemic having registered around 50 cases, more and more people are scared and are searching for treatment and safety. But those who have been affected by this dreaded epidemic have been advised to look out for quarantine centres to go and get themselves isolated and treated.
But what is quarantine after all? “Well it is a method by which a virus affected man is cured,” replied my friend Akshay Shah.
No, I said. In general, a quarantine is ‘a strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of a disease.’ As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, the practice of a quarantine specifically involves the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic from others who have not been so exposed to prevent the possible spread of the particular disease.
In this exercise people are put in quarantine when they are not currently sick but have been or may have been exposed to a communicable disease. This can help stop the spread of the disease. Voluntary quarantine is often called self-quarantine.
Historically, a quarantine is referred to a period originally of 40 days imposed upon ships when suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease. This practice was done in Venice in the 1300s in an effort to stave off the plague. Later on this practice turned on human.
Quarantine is a restriction on the movement of people and goods that is intended to prevent the spread of a disease. It is often used in connection to diseases and illnesses preventing the movement of those who may have been exposed to a communicable disease but do not have a confirmed medical diagnosis. The term is often used synonymously with medical isolation in which those confirmed to be infected with a communicable disease are isolated from the healthy population.
Quarantine may be used interchangeably with cordon sanitaire and although the terms are related, cordon sanitaire refers to the restriction of movement of people into or out of a defined geographic area such as a community in order to prevent an infection from spreading.
The word quarantine comes from a seventeenth-century Venetian variant of the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning ‘forty days’, the period that all ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death plague epidemic. Quarantine can be applied to humans but also to animals of various kinds and both as part of border control as well as within a country a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.
The purpose of such quarantine-for-decontamination is to prevent the spread of contamination such that others are not put at risk from a person fleeing a scene where contamination is suspect. It can also be used to limit exposure as well as eliminate a vector.
Quarantine centres have their own stories to tell. A lady who had been to the Kasturba Hospital for a check- up and eventually got admitted came out running complaining that the bed she was allotted was full of red ants on which no could not sit leave alone sleep. She even complained of ill-kept wards. If such is the condition, then just imagine about the plight of patients admitted in the hospital.
In the 21st century, people suspected of carrying infectious diseases have been quarantined as in the cases of Andrew Speaker (multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, 2007) and Kaci Hickox (Ebola, 2014). Moving infected patients to isolation wards and home-based self-quarantine of people potentially exposed was the method by which the Western African Ebola virus epidemic was finished in 2016; health experts criticised international travel restrictions imposed during the epidemic as ineffective due to difficulty of enforcement and counterproductive as they slowed down aid efforts.
The People’s Republic of China has employed mass quarantines – firstly of the city of Wuhan and subsequently of all of Hubei province (population 55.5 million) – in the 2019–20 Coronavirus outbreak. After a few weeks, the Italian government imposed lockdowns all over the country (with more than 60 million people) to stop the Coronavirus outbreak.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)