Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Quarantine and Isolation, Part 2--Isolation

Last week quarantine was addressed here.  This week we'll address isolation.  Quarantine and isolation are not synonyms.  To quarantine is to separate apparently healthy individuals for a period of time to be sure they are healthy in actuality and that they are not bringing outside diseases into your group.  To isolate is to separate ill persons from the rest of the group to prevent the spread of disease.

In an ideal situation, the ill individual is completely isolated from the rest of the family, with the exception of one caretaker, who is also isolated as much as possible from the household.  The patient should have a separate bedroom, preferably with a window that can be cracked for proper ventilation, as well as a separate bathroom, or lacking that, two buckets to substitute for a toilet.  Food should be served with paper and plastic ware so that there is no need to wash dishes and less risk for spreading germs.

Further measures to be taken will likely depend on the nature of the illness and how exactly it is transmitted.  Is it airborne (tuberculosis, chicken pox), food-borne, or blood-borne?  Vector-borne (mosquitoes, ticks), fomite-borne (doorknobs, counters, sink handles, toys), or droplet-borne?

For airborne diseases, you'll want to be able to seal off duct work and add a rolled towel along the bottom of the sickroom door to prevent air from being sucked into the rest of the house.  Any person at risk for the disease, and especially the caregiver, should wear personal protective equipment, most especially a mask, preferably an N95 or better.

In the case of droplet-borne diseases, the patient should also have a simple face mask to prevent spreading the disease to others.  While a face mask on the patient does nothing to halt the spread of airborne diseases, it does help prevent the spread of droplet-borne diseases. 

With all diseases, the caregiver should have nitrile gloves.  Latex gloves don't have a great shelf life, and some people are allergic to it.  Both latex and vinyl gloves tend to stick together and melt with time, especially in a more humid location.  Nitrile, though a little more expensive, is really the only way to go.


The time the patient needs to be in isolation will vary depending on several factors.  If electronic devices are no longer working, as the patient recovers boredom is going to become a huge issue and the temptation to release a patient from isolation will be great.  Consider having some really good books available, or perhaps working everything out so a child will be able to watch a movie.

Keep in mind that the most important medicine you can offer may be showing true concern for the patient.  That's part of the placebo effect, and while placebos don't generally work on microbes, a sympathetic caregiver can definitely improve patient morale and thus speed recovery.

Links to related posts:
Placebo Effect
Gloves and Masks


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