The outbreak and rapid spread of coronavirus has government and health officials doing everything they can to minimize the number of people infected. Originating in China, the country's neighbors have closed borders. Airlines are canceling flights, nations are advising their citizens against traveling to the country, and a growing number of people around the world, including American nationals, are undergoing mandatory or self-imposed quarantines.
A multi-day quarantine is often utilized in dramatic movie plotlines, and we rarely expect to find ourselves placed in such a situation. However, from unsuspected vacationers and students to diplomats and journalists, an increasing number of people are facing this reality with the current coronavirus situation, including a couple of large cruise ships.
Read on. We’re going to cover what a quarantine involves, the history of some US quarantines, and how to prepare for a self quarantine at home if you suspect you’ve come into contact with the coronavirus or another infectious disease. Or, heaven forbid, a mandatory quarantine is forced upon a city or state.
What is a quarantine and why are they important?
A quarantine is the containment of people who, although they may seem healthy, could be infected by a virus. On the other hand, “isolation” is the correct term used for confining someone who is already sick and expressing symptoms. In the case of the Covid-19 coronavirus, the recommended World Health Organization incubation period is presently at two weeks, which is why quarantines for the virus are 14 days. Quarantines are one of the most effective methods used to slow the spread of a disease through a population.
Presently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that roughly 200 residents of the state of Georgia are self-monitoring for the Covid-19 Coronavirus. They all recently returned from China. Health officials reportedly didn’t use the word quarantine though many would call being asked to remain isolated in your home for two weeks a quarantine.
The word quarantine was used, however, with 195 Americans who were released from March Air Force Base in the US recently after a two week quarantine period. All were US citizens flown home from Wuhan, China. All will need medical follow-ups as they continue on across the states now with their daily lives.
History of Quarantines in the US
Self-imposed quarantines were the only kind of quarantines in the US until government-imposed quarantines began in the late 1800s after outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera became increasingly common. One of the best known examples of quarantine in the US is the story of Typhoid Mary. An asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever in the early 20th century, Mary worked as a cook for various families. She spread the disease to up to 49 others until she was placed under mandatory quarantine on North Brother Island in New York City. At this time, those who were or had been placed under quarantine were commonly stigmatized by the public.
More recently, in 2007, 31-year-old Andrew Speaker was infected with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. According to science alert, “he traveled to Europe, despite knowing he had and could spread this form of TB. Fearing quarantine in Italy, he returned to the United States, where he was apprehended by federal authorities and quarantined at a medical center in Denver, where he also received treatment.” The case grabbed national attention and was a reminder the quarantine is a matter of public safety and shouldn’t be stigmatized.
How to prepare for a quarantine
According to the Center for Disease Control, quarantinable diseases included in an Executive Order of the President includes cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers (such as Marburg, Ebola, and Congo-Crimean), and severe acute respiratory syndromes. That said, there are many other illnesses not included on the list that still pose a risk to family, friends, and the general public.
We never know when we may come in contact with an infected individual, but if you have reason to believe you have, a self-imposed quarantine is highly advised. However, having a home quarantine plan in place will make the experience a whole lot easier and less stressful.
Determine the quarantine length: First things first, consult your doctor to find out exactly how long you will need to quarantine yourself, as it varies depending on the virus. Anticipate at least seven to ten days at a minimum. With the Covid-19 coronavirus, the quarantine period will likely be longer.
Minimize human contact: Ideally your family members or roommates won’t be sharing space with you during your quarantine period. If that isn’t an option, make sure you stay in your bedroom with the door closed, and do not share the room with anyone else. You should also have exclusive use of a bathroom. If you do need to share a common area with other people, try to stay at least one meter or more from other people to reduce the spread of illness, and wear a facemask.
Stock up: To avoid infecting others, it’s best to stay home during your quarantine. This means that you’ll need to stock up ahead of time since you won’t be able to visit the grocery store or pharmacy. Here are some of the basic items you’ll need--just make sure you have enough to last you for several weeks:
- Nonperishable food: Whether two weeks or three months, many foods we buy at the store won’t last for your entire quarantine period. Order nonperishable foods so you won’t need to worry about going hungry or getting improper nutrition while you’re at home.
- A first aid kit: For minor injuries or general pain relief, you’ll want to have a first aid kit stocked with items like band aids, wipes, and more. Make sure to stock up on additional items that may not be included in the first aid kit, such as a thermometer, paracetamol, diarrheal medications, and any prescription medications you take regularly.
- Antibacterial items: As mentioned above, I highly advise you to avoid sharing space with anyone else. However, if you do need to share space with others, you can stop the spread of germs in your home by using disposable tissues, antibacterial wipes, latex gloves, face masks and hand sanitizer. When assisting a loved one who has been placed under quarantine, you’ll want to use the same. An N95 personal air filter mask is perfect for this kind of situation.
- Entertainment items: To keep yourself busy, entertained, and calm, you’ll want to have a few items on hand to pass the time with. Books, TV shows, movies, or art supplies are a good place to start.
Stay positive: Quarantines can be socially isolating and somewhat stressful until you know you’re in the clear. It’s important to keep up as much of a normal daily routine as possible and maintain a positive attitude.
Even though it’s easy to think “it’ll never happen to me,” you can be sure that the individuals testing positive with the Covid-19 coronavirus likely had that thought originally. Never assume you’re not at risk for situations that may require quarantine. Take the necessary steps now to ensure you’ll be set if a self quarantine becomes necessary.
Stay safe and alert. And have a great weekend!
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply