Quarantine

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Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease. The word comes from the Italian (seventeenth century Venetian) quarantena, meaning forty day period. Quarantine can be applied to humans, but also to animals of various kinds.

Contents

In practice

The quarantining of people often raises questions of civil rights, especially in cases of long confinement or segregation from society, such as that of Mary Mallon (aka Typhoid Mary), a typhoid fever carrier who spent the last 24 years of her life under quarantine.

Quarantine periods can be very short, such as in the case of a suspected anthrax attack, in which persons are allowed to leave as soon as they shed their potentially contaminated garments and undergo a decontamination shower. For example, an article entitled "Daily News workers quarantined" describes a brief quarantine that lasted until people could be showered in a decontamination tent. (Kelly Nankervis, Daily News).

The February/March 2003 issue of HazMat Magazine suggests that people be "locked in a room until proper decon could be performed", in the event of "suspect anthrax".

Standard-Times senior correspondent Steve Urbon (February 14, 2003) describes such temporary quarantine powers:

Civil rights activists in some cases have objected to people being rounded up, stripped and showered against their will. But Capt. Chmiel said local health authorities have "certain powers to quarantine people."

The purpose of such quarantine-for-decontamination is to prevent the spread of contamination, and to contain the contamination such that others are not put at risk from a person fleeing a scene where contamination is suspect.

The first astronauts to visit the Moon were quarantined upon their return at the specially built Lunar Receiving Laboratory.

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