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What Is The Difference Between “Quarantine” And “Isolation”?

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Quarantine vs isolation, what are you in? We covered the meaning and definition of the words pandemic, epidemic, and endemic in a previous article. So, we took up the next popularly confused word, quarantine, and isolation.  These words have been thrown around on your social media in the recent past a little too much. So what are they? What is the difference between them?

Both of them are public health practices that are practiced to keep a contagious disease from spreading. These practices help prevent exposure from any infectious diseases. It is one of the most basic life-saving practice is a public emergency like a pandemic. Both of these terms are being used interchangeably in the COVID-19 situation and therefore, there is a need to differentiate between them.


Anyone who is infected with an infectious disease is kept away from the general population in isolation. Isolation in lay man’s language means to single out or separate from other things. This is done to prevent the spread of the disease from the infected to the healthy.

The word has Latin roots. Isolation is derived from the Latin word insulates meant ‘into an island’.

Isolation helps in separating sick people from healthy people and prevents the spreading of the disease. Usually, isolation is done in a hospital ward where the patient is kept in a specific room without any contact with others. If the patient is severely ill then they are admitted and isolated in a hospital, however, if they aren’t that ill, they can be isolated in their own homes.

There are few variants of isolation that are being practiced these days. One of them in ‘self-isolation’, where a person for the safety of others around him goes into isolation if he/she has any infection-related symptoms.


Quarantine in its Italian origin means forty days. The Latin roots of the word ‘quadranginta’ also means forty days. This word found its way into English in the 1600s. Someone in quarantine means that they don’t have any disease but to prevent the spread they are supposed to stay at home. This stops the spread of the disease.

A quarantine is practiced as a part of caution. The historical origin of this period of forty days started in Venice. Since it was believed that ships carried infectious diseases, a period of 40 days was given before docking and unloading.

So simply saying, people without any symptoms are kept away from the public so that there is no spread of the infectious disease.

What about Coronavirus Pandemic?

We are all stuck amidst this pandemic. Even staying at home feels like a punishment. However, if you are home and are not infected you are in quarantine. God forbid, if you are reading this article from a hospital bed or a room in your house, then you are in isolation.

For passing your time and getting your English straight, visit our other articles to know the difference between a pandemic, an endemic, and an epidemic.

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Jui Shirvalkar-Chandurkar

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