COVID-19 Guide

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation and quarantine are being used interchangeably during the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s important to understand the difference

Isolation refers to separating sick people with a contagious disease from those who are not sick. Hospitals use isolation for patients who have a known infectious disease that can be spread easily to others. A person who is ill with COVID-19 needs to isolate themselves in a specific room away from other members of their household. Other members of the household should use a separate bedroom—and even a separate bathroom—from the ill person, if possible.

It is also recommended that the ill person should eat or be fed in their room, away from other household members. Household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding and other items should not be shared with the person infected with COVID-19. It is important to prohibit all visitors and nonessential people from being in the home.

According to the Central Shenandoah Health District, if a family member has COVID-19 symptoms and has been tested, but the results are pending, that family member should isolate until the results are known. That person should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible, and definitely use separate dishes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels and bedding.

Quarantine helps to limit the spread of communicable disease by separating and restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to watch and see if they become sick. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.

Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been told to quarantine. Quarantining means staying home and away from other people as much as possible for a 14-day period. This includes avoiding shopping, eating out, socializing, public places and large crowds.

By: Gayle Shultz, RN, MSN Augusta Health Community Outreach